Monday, 1 September 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Miserable Mill, Chapter 11

Once again we’re onto another home straight of a book from the Series of Unfortunate Events. All being well, this time next week we’ll be moving on to The Austere Academy.

What Happens?

Violet and Sunny try to read Advanced Ocular Science to try to figure out how they can help Klaus. The book contains lots of long hard words and it is a struggle for Violet to work out exactly what the chapter means. Violet establishes that there is one word used to induce hypnotism and a second one to get the person out of the hypnotised state, but they have no idea what words might have been used for Klaus. Eventually they hear the sound of the saw in the mill starting up and arrive in time to see Flacutono ordering a still hypnotised Klaus to make the saw chop up a very terrified Charles.

Thoughts as I read:
I stopped counting the eyes after the first book, which is just as well because that picture of Shirley’s tights a couple of chapters back would’ve killed me if I tried to count them all. The image at the beginning of this chapter has another one for up. This time it’s just a simple little picture of a book, a massive tome of a book, with an eye on the first page. There’s not much more I can say about it than that.

This chapter returns briefly to the beginning of the book and to the discussion about how the first sentence can tell you a fair bit about the sort of book you’re going to encounter. We’re reminded of how this very book began and how it has entirely lived up to expectations. We also learn that Violet is trying to read Advanced Ocular Science which was written by our old friend Dr. Orwell. That book begins “This tome will endeavor to scrutinize, in quasi-inclusive breadth, the epistemology of ophthalmologically contrived appraisals of ocular systems and the subsequent and requisite exertions imperative for expugnation of injurious states”; it’s a real hoot!

Sunny’s quite vocal in this chapter. First she says “Garj!” as she wonders about the meaning of the word ‘endeavour’ and mere seconds later she says “Yash!” meaning “And if only Klaus weren’t hypnotized, then he could tell us what this sentence means.” This doesn’t really help matters because it just reminds the girls of the weird state that their brother is now in and how unlike himself he has become.

Violet struggles with the book because despite enjoying reading and inventing, she is aware that researching things is Klaus’s skill, not hers. She tries to adopt Klaus’s strategy to figure out the book and so we get a little bit of a tutorial on how to conduct research. First she consults the table of contents which consists of chapters titled: Introduction, Basic Ophthalmology, Nearsightedness and Farsightedness, Blindness, Itchy Eyelashes, Damaged Pupils, Blinking Problems, Winking Problems, Surgical Practices, Glasses, Monocles and Contact Lenses, Sunglasses, Hypnosis and Mind Control, and finally Which Eye Colour Is the Best One? Any guesses as to which one is the one she needs to read?

We then get a brief respite from the story as we get a little lesson in ‘stylistic consistency’. The Miserable Mill demonstrates stylistic consistency “because it began in a miserable way and will continue that way until the last page”. Advanced Ocular Science continues with “Hypnosis is an efficacious yet precarious methodology and should not be assayed by neophytes” which means that is is stylistically consistent because Dr. Orwell continues to be reluctant to use one word when ten will do.

Violet decides to approach the book by guessing at what the words might mean, filling in the words which she doesn’t recognise with words which seem to fit in their place. It seems to do the trick and she gradually makes her way through the book. I wonder if this is something which children of the future will not have to worry about; I’ve grown a little too used to reading books on my Kindle and being able to select words I don’t know to have them defined for me (in fact, I get so used to it that when I switch back to reading a book-book I find myself pressing words hoping they will be defined, alas it never works). Obviously Violet doesn’t have the luxury of a Kindle (or a search function) so she has to just muddle along as best as she can.

Violet is feeling quite lonely by this point and wishes that Sunny could talk to her because having someone who is old enough to conduct a proper conversation, not in baby talk, is a massive help. All the same, she wakes her little sister up and reads a little of the book to her, replacing all the unknown words with hmmms, establishing that a hypnotised person will obey another person when they are given a specific word.

When Violet wonders aloud which word they need to say to affect Klaus. Sunny’s reply is “Heece” meaning “Beats me. I’m only a baby.” She then says “Brewol” meaning “And I’ll go back to sleep” when Violet says she’ll carry on reading. It’s a long night and Violet doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere until she finally comes across a line, the gist of which seems to suggest that another word will unhypnotise their brother.

Sunny raises the really pertinent issue here “Skel” which means “But I wonder what that word would be”. The sisters then hmmm together for a little while trying to think through things. They’re interrupted by yet another hmmm which for a minute I thought could be Sir or Shirley or someone else who was going to cause problems for them. But it’s not a person at all, it’s the sound of the lumbermill’s saw getting up to speed.

Things pretty much just go from bad to worse here. Inside the mill is Foreman Flacutono giving an order to someone who the girls can’t see. The saw is starting to run and right in its path is a log all tied up with string. Oh, and Charles is tied to the log as well. As the saw gets closer and closer the girls realise that the person Flacutono is ordering is their brother, still barefoot and still hypnotised.

This could be a very unfortunate event for several people!

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