Monday, 13 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator, Chapter 11

This week will see the final three chapters of The Ersatz Elevator. Over the last week we saw the chapters getting steadily longer and from this point onwards they seem to be condensing down. It won’t be long until we’re onto Book 7!

What Happens?

The Baudelaires reach the end of the tunnel, the dead end of the tunnel. After discovering a trapdoor in the ceiling they use the tongs to breakthrough and climb out, finding themselves in one of the last places they expected.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter opens with a clever little picture positioned at the bottom of the page. It shows a trapdoor in a floor which is surrounded by debris. Two left hands, which I’m guessing belong to Violet and Klaus respectively, are pushing it open which was pretty much the only thing I saw when I first looked at it. On closer inspection you can also make out little things surrounding the opening; some sheet music, a photograph, a bottle and something that may be the leg of some furniture or perhaps a bannister rail. I’m guessing this is wherever the mysterious tunnel comes out.

The French expression “cul-de-sac” describes what the Baudelaire orphans found when they reached the end of the dark hallway, and like all French expressions, it is most easily understood when you translate each French word into English.

Can’t really argue with logic like that.

We’re given a brief bit of hope that perhaps the Baudelaires come to the end of the corridor at the time that the Quagmires had been rescued, or that they arrived at the auction. Neither of these are the case. Though before we can find out exactly what the Baudelaires find at the end of the tunnel we learn that they hear all sorts of things on their journey; noises from the lobby of 667 Dark Avenue, the trolley, horses’ hooves (because there’s something a bit weird about the transport system in this city), a factory, church bells, people dropping things, and finally silence. I wonder if anyone has ever tried to make a map of the city where all this is taking place?

About this time they also discover that the tunnel has ended abruptly. Sunny says “Pratjic” meaning “Gunther must have ended up somewhere if he took this passageway.” The ‘prat’ bit of that is obviously the bit referring to Olaf. Violet is a bit defeatist about this situation, she’s planning on their going back the way they came and having to climb back to the shaft to get out that way. Sunny doesn’t like the sound of this as she says “Pyetian” meaning “We’ll never make it there in time to expose Gunther and save the Qugamires.”

They spend a bit of time wondering what they can do to get out of this situation, in that lovely repetitive way we’ve come to know and love. The idea of using the tongs they are carrying as shovels is suggested, to which Sunny says “Tenti” meaning “If we had some dynamite, we could blast our way out of the hallway, but we can’t use the tongs are dynamite.” Violet is slightly more practical and decides to use the tongs to bang on the ceiling to try and attract someone’s attention.

This sounds a little bit dodgy, I mean, they don’t know who is likely to hear them banging away down there. What if they ended up attracting the attention of someone who they didn’t want to find them?! On the other hand, they don’t really have much choice, do they?

So they start banging and get a shower of burnt tasting dust falling down on them. Sunny sums it up well with “Peflob!” Obviously the burnt dust is ashes, prompting Sunny to wonder “Tisdu?” or “Where in the city can you find ashes outdoors?”

Before too much longer they’ve uncovered a trapdoor above them and Violet has the bright idea to use the tongs as crowbars. Sunny, being just a baby, has no idea what these are, asking “Herdiset?” and so Violet explains how they can use the bent tongs to lever up the trapdoor. It works, allowing Klaus to quip “The solution was right on the tip of our tongs.” Well said Klaus.

While Sunny is saying “Up!” and the Baudelaires are pulling themselves out through the trapdoor, Snicket goes off on a tangent about one of his most prized possessions. In case you’re wondering, that’s a map, though it takes about three pages to find out where it is the Baudelaires have ended up.
They aren’t sure themselves at first and they spot a man who they ask to tell them the way to Veblen Hall. The man tells them, assuming that they are ghosts. I can’t imagine ghosts would generally bother to stop and ask for directions. Then again, I suppose it would be a little bit disconcerting to see three children suddenly appear up from the ground. Especially if that happened on the site of the former Baudelaire mansion which everyone claims is haunted.

Yep, that’s right, the Baudelaires have come home.


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