Friday, 29 August 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 9

Check back later today for the second chapter of the day of The Miserable Mill. For now, here’s the review of Chapter 9.

What Happens?

Count Olaf has adopted the identity of a receptionist to Dr Orwell, named Shirley. Shirley reveals that she is working alongside Dr Orwell, that Klaus is being hypnotised and that she intends to get hold of the children to raise them herself. Orwell and Shirley then let the children return to the lumbermill where they are given a memorandum containing some very bad news.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter opens with a lovely image of what we can assume are Shirley’s legs. There’s the smart skirt, the sensible shoes (though they look more black than beige) and a stylishly patterned pair of tights. The tights are in fact patterned with the classic eye motif and are not quite enough to contain Olaf’s hairy legs, though he really does have the legs to pull off that kind of an outfit; it’d maybe look a little bit better if he shaved so there weren’t all the stray hairs poking through.

The actual text of the chapter starts off by talking about how children who are in trouble may be said to have low self-esteem and how this is often not the case, rather that the low self-esteem is caused by something which is causing the trouble (example are given such as a monster, a bus driver, a banana peel, killer bees, the school principal). And so the Baudelaires know that they are in trouble and they know that this has nothing to do with their levels of self-esteem.

Violet and Sunny’s self-esteem levels are just fine as the former can invent things and the latter knows her siblings are interested in her. They knew that they were attractive but none of this changes the fact that they are in trouble.

Olaf continues pretending to be Shirley, even though he obviously isn’t, by asking their names. When the girls call him out, he merely points to the nameplate as evidence that his is in fact Shirley. Sunny sensibly replies “Fiti!” meaning “That nameplate doesn’t prove anything, of course!” Olaf explains that he has decided that he would now like to be Shirley and therefore that is what they should call him, er, her.

Now I could start a discussion here about perhaps Olaf is actually a transgender person, but we all know that it’s far more likely that he’s really just trying to catch the children using any old disguise that will work for him. The guise of Shirley is just the latest in a long line of disguises.

Then again, he’s done a very good job with his disguise. He’s grown his nails long and painted them. That’s not even something that I do very often. I painted my nails for the first time in years at the beginning of the month purely for my cousin’s wedding. As that’s likely to be the last family wedding for a while I probably won’t need to do it again for ages!

It is quite interesting here that the text refers to Count Olaf exclusively as Count Olaf until he says he wishes to be called Shirley, at which point the text switches to using Shirley and the pronoun ‘her’. Just an observation. Oh, and Shirley has a monobrow.

Shirley seems more than willing to tell the Baudelaire girls what she’s up to and how she’s working with Dr Orwell to get the Baudelaires. Sunny responds with “Popinsh!” which Violet defines as “Dr Orwell hypnotised Klaus and caused that terrible accident, didn’t she?”

Violet is expecting them to be abducted and carted off somewhere so that Olaf can do terrible things to them and steal all their money. But that is not what happens. Instead Shirley offers them a cookie and states that her wish in life is to raise three children. Violet tries to point out how ridiculous this is as Sir is raising them but it doesn’t take a genius to realise that Sir’s not exactly the most devoted of guardians. After all, he’s putting three children to work in a dangerous lumbermill where he pays his employees with coupons and doesn’t even feed them proper meals. How much of a fight is he really likely to put up if Count Olaf asks him to hand over the children?

At that moment however Dr Orwell returns with Klaus who is looking all dazed. He’s been hypnotised again. They’ve obviously got some sinister plan up their collective sleeves because Dr Orwell just hands Klaus over to his sisters and tells them to let him rest. She also says that she expects she’ll see them soon, after all, Klaus is always causing accidents.

Sunny’s reply is practically English “Roopish!” meaning “They’re not accidents! They’re the results of hypnotism!” But no one responds to her and so they girls are forced to take Klaus out of the building as he muses about how he feels like he knows Shirley from somewhere else. “Ballywot!” says Sunny, meaning “She’s Count Olaf in disguise!”

At least this time around Violet and Sunny know that Klaus has been hypnotised, so although this is all very frightening, at least they have slightly more understanding about what is going on here. Violet pushes Klaus to remember what has happened but all he knows is that he broke his glasses, then he calls Violet ‘Veronica’.

On the facing page while all this is going on, is a full page picture, as we have come to expect in the centre of these books. It shows the building looking differently to the way I imagine it. In this image the eye is standing up on it’s side, whereas I picture it as actually looking like an eye without needing to tilt your head. The spikes along the roof don’t make as much sense with it the way it’s pictured, but if it was my way then they would be eyelashes.

Violet decides that the best course of action is to put Klaus in the dormitory and then see Sir to see if he can help them. Sunny agrees with a glum little “Guree” and so they set off. Their fellow lumbermill employees are less than enthused at their return, though Phil, ever the optimist, tells his colleagues that it was an accident. Phil’s leg is in a cast and he’s not too bothered about it. I bet he doesn’t get any time off work though.

There’s a memorandum for the children about the accident though and it contains some very, very bad news. The children are being blamed for the accident as this is a sign that they are ‘bad workers’ and these are not tolerated at the lumbermill. The children are threatened with being sent away to be adopted by a receptionist in town. A receptionist named Shirley.

Shirley not!

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