Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Austere Academy, Chapter 12

This chapter is pretty short which I’ve come to associate with sort of filler chapters in these books, like it’s there to help make up the thirteen chapter quota. Let’s see what we think of this one.

What Happens?

Nero shows up at the Orphan Shack with Mr Remora and Mrs Bass to test the Baudelaires. After a lot of stapling and questions about their respective topics, Bass and Remora announce that the children are wonderful and do not deserve to be expelled. However at that moment Coach Genghis shows up and it occurs to the Baudelaires that maybe things have not gone so well for the Quagmires!

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter has a sort of double image; at the top we’ve got a light hanging down in between the words ‘Chapter Twelve’ and then at the very bottom of the page there’s a table with a large ‘exam’ book on it. I’m guessing we’ll find out how the Baudelaires do in their exam here then.

Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make – bombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcake – if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble.

Got to watch out for that strawberry shortcake!

Snicket goes on to warn us about making assumptions about things like, assuming your bed is where it always is because you might wake one morning to find it has drifted out to sea. He has a fair point there. While my bed has never actually drifted out to sea, I do agree with making assumptions about where your bed is when you wake up. When I was in Halls of Residence my bed was on the opposite side of the room from at home. Each weekend I would go home and forget and try to get out through the wall. I’d do the same thing when I’d get back to Uni. I spent a good nine months with bruises all over my knees!

I think this warning means that whatever the Baudelaires assume this morning, it’s going to turn out badly for them. Violet thinks they’ve made the last staple, therefore saving Sunny’s job; Klaus thinks he knows all the measurements and Violet knows all the stories, therefore preventing them from being expelled; and Sunny thinks “Nilikoh” meaning “And we haven’t seen either of the Quagmire triplets, so I think we can safely assume that their part of the plan went well.”

Then Nero shows up with their exams (and the paper for Sunny to staple). Instead of being a written exam it’s more of a sort of sudden-death test. The teachers will ask Violet and Klaus questions until one of them gets it wrong and then they get expelled. That’s the best way to ensure a child has learned their lessons after all.

Nero supervises Remora and Bass as they question the children, mocking them as they answer and then asking if the answer they’ve given is wrong. We get a full two pages of questions and answers, each one being answered correctly. Thankfully Snicket then moves on:

The comprehensive exams went on and on, and if I were to repeat all of the tiresome and pointless questions that Mr. Remora and Mrs. Bass asked, you might become so bored that you might go to sleep right here, using this book as a pillow instead of as an entertaining and instructive tale to benefit young minds.

At last the teachers turn to Nero and point out the children are doing a fantastic job and they should all just call it quits now. They actually praise all three of the children, that’s something the children probably haven’t heard from an adult since they were living with Monty! Even Sunny gets complimented on her stapling skills, being a modest child she replies “Pilso!” which Violet translates as “Thank you very much” but which actually means “My stapling hand is sore.”

As though things are going to go on getting better for the children, Remora actually suggests expelling Carmelita Spats because she’s not very nice and is a poor student to boot. Nero shoots them down and the conversation turns to what a wonderful person Coach Genghis is.

And speak of the devil, no sooner has Nero mentioned him, Coach Genghis shows up. And things have obviously not gone well for the Quagmires because he’s got the hair ribbon and glasses the Baudelaires loaned to them, oh, and his shoes are covered with flour, so it’s probably safe to assume that the fake-Sunny hasn’t faired much better either.

So presumably in the thirteenth chapter we’re going to find out exactly what has happened to the Quagmires. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess, nothing good!

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