Thursday, 2 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator, Chapter 3

There were a couple of moments when I didn’t think I was going to make it through all these posts this week, especially as I’ve been trying to get a week ahead of myself on my regular posts. But I seem to be doing okay right now. Little celebration moment, please.

Okay, I’m done.

What Happens?

The Baudelaires start adjusting to life in the Squalor penthouse. While some things are good, like living in the city where they grew up, others are bad, like the fact that they are basically there because they are currently ‘in’. They can’t help but feel miserable when Esme buys them pinstripe suits instead of the gifts that Jerome had been hoping to get them. And then, things get even worse when an old familiar face shows up at the apartment.

Thoughts as I read:

Chapter 3 opens with a picture of three bags which come from ‘The IN Boutique’, I’m guessing this is where Esme gets all of her clothes from to ensure that she is the most fashionable person in town. The front bag has a pinstripe suit poking out the top, so I think it’s safe to assume that the Baudelaires are going to find themselves all kitted out in the innest of in outfits in the coming pages.

We’re informed that life with the Squalors is a bit of a mixed bag. We also get some examples of other things that might be a ‘mixed bag’ like:

A trip to the zoo would be a very mixed bag if the weather were beautiful, but all of the man- and woman-eating lions were running around loose.

I sincerely hope that this isn’t the case for us when we go to the zoo in a few weeks time. Well, I hope the weather is beautiful but that there are no people-eating animals loose.

Anyway, the children seem to have some good times because everything there is familiar and Jerome takes them on lots of little trips around the city. Violet goes to the Verne Invention Museum (I’m guessing the name comes from Jules Verne), Klaus goes to the Akhmatova Bookstore and Sunny takes a trip to the Pincus Hospital where she was born. These are the good bits of the mixed bag.

The bad bits involve the time spent at 667 Dark Avenue which is ridiculously large, with its seventy-one bedrooms. We get a little list of other rooms included in this massive apartment:

… there were a number of living rooms, dining rooms, breakfast rooms, snack rooms, sitting rooms, standing rooms, ballrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and an assortment of rooms that seemed to have no purpose at all.

This kind of reminds me of the lists of sweets and things in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As you can imagine, it’s a bit confusing and results in the Baudelaires occasionally getting lost when they’re trying to find their way around, or they find a good room one day and then can’t find it the next. I can imagine that would be frustrating.

Esme’s not really too interested in them either. Orphans are in and she has them, they’re more of an accessory than any kind of responsibility. And despite being promised rooms which would appeal to them, things are not all right there either. Violet has a workbench but no tools, because those are out, so there can be no inventing right now. Klaus’s room is next to the library but the books are basically just records of what has been in or out in the past. I feel like sharing because I always like the titles of books in this series, so we have Boots Were In in 1812 and Trout: In France They’re Out. And even Sunny’s room is no good because it is full of toys for babies and they’re all soft, so she can’t have fun biting things.

And the Baudelaires are unsettled still because they don’t know what is happening to their friends and no one can help them there. In fact, Esme refuses to discuss them at all; Jerome is slightly better, however, he does suggest they come up with another plan to help find them. Esme’s too busy for that because there’s the ‘In Auction’ to organise, this is an auction (funnily enough) of things that are in (incredibly).

I do like the little bit of the conversation where Esme says it’s ‘one of the most smashing events of the year’ and Sunny says “Smashi?” because she doesn’t understand Esme’s use of the word. For a moment Esme sounds like quite a nice person, as she tells them that the money raised goes to a good cause, the good cause is of course herself. She’s practically a female Olaf! When Jerome suggests that they give the money to an actual good cause, Esme writes it off, after all, what better cause to spend the money on than herself.

Jerome reveals that they only recently moved into the penthouse, and he’s very keep to get the elevator back up and running again. This does make me wonder about how early they have to get up when they need to leave, considering the fact that it seemed to take the Baudelaires best part of the afternoon and evening to get up to the apartment. If you had to be at work at 9am, would you need to leave the house at 5am to be downstairs by 8am?

As Esme’s friend is coming round that evening, Jerome is instructed to take the children out for dinner and my question above is answered. Their reservations are at 7pm and it’s almost 6pm now, so to get there they need to start walking immediately. Also worth noting, they are eating at Cafe Salmonella. Really not a place I’d fancy eating at!

Obviously before they can leave, Esme needs to make sure that the children are suitably in so she gives them a gift from The In Boutique. It’s been such a hardship for them, getting by without any pinstriped clothes. Poor Jerome really needs to leave Esme, he can definitely do better than her. He gets that the children are unimpressed by this gift but Esme dismisses that and the children do their best to pretend that they are enthusiastic about the clothes. Even Sunny says “Ayjim” meaning “I love my suit. Thank you very much” as she plays along with her siblings.

Jerome’s problem is that he caves in to Esme way too easily. As soon as she tells him her way is right, he accepts it and so just like that the children have to go an change into new clothes and go out to dinner. Aware from Jerome and Esme the children are pretty miserable about their gifts, especially knowing they could have gotten things they actually wanted. Sunny says “Puictiw” which is not defined but she says it glumly so she’s obviously annoyed too.

But then Violet decides that they’re acting a little like Carmelita Spats. After all, they have a home, and food, and they should be safe from Count Olaf, and they’re safe when their friends are in danger. Sunny adds “Chittol” meaning “That’s true. We should stop complaining and go change into our new outfits.”

Despite the resolution to be more positive about their situation, they then realise that they have been given adult-sized clothes which are definitely not going to fit them. There’s a little aside here about how they will be dwarfed in the clothes, but all I can focus on here is the fact that Snicket has gone for the Tolkienesque ‘dwarves’ when discussing fairy tale characters instead of the correct ‘dwarfs’. Tolkien himself said that the former spelling was technically incorrect but it’s become totally assimilated into accepted English use now. Anyway. That’s not the point of this paragraph.

The children look ridiculous in their new clothes, especially Sunny who is completely buried in her suit. Sunny protests about her siblings trying to help her make the suit look better on her because they might see her underwear, apparently, it’s hard to tell because her voice is muffled by the clothing. This raises an interesting question. Considering Sunny is intelligent enough to have quite mature conversations, is she toilet trained? This discussion suggests that she is. We’ve never had anyone mention changing a nappy, have we?

But what Sunny has actually meant here has nothing to do with her siblings seeing her underwear. Instead she was alerting her brother and sister to a very real danger. Apparently Olaf has just shown up.

And to think, we’ve still got two hundred pages still to go!

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