Thursday, 16 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator, Chapter 13

And so we’ve done it. We’ve reached the end of another book in The Series of Unfortunate Events. I can hardly believe it. I’m so glad that I switched to doing these not-quite-daily because I worked it out earlier in the week and if I was doing a chapter a week we’d still be back on The Reptile Room, instead we’re getting ready to start the seventh book! It won’t be long before we’re over halfway through the series.

But before we get there, we have to finish Chapter 13 first!

What Happens?

The box is revealed to contain nothing more than doilies which are spilled all over the floor. Esme announces that she no longer wishes to be the Baudelaires’ guardian and then Gunther inadvertently reveals his true identity. In the ensuing chaos he and Esme take off and the Baudelaires learn that the red herring was the real auction item hiding the Quagmires. As Olaf and Esme get away, they decide that they will not let anything stop them from tracking down Olaf, rescuing the Quagmires, and getting to the bottom of all their mysteries.

Thoughts as I read:

The picture at the beginning of this chapter reminds me what’s in the V.F.D. box. I’d completely forgotten up until this point and it’s just seeing all the doilies swirling around on this page that I’ve been reminded. There are almost twenty of the things all over the page and at the bottom there is a tangle of arms and legs. I particularly like the chubby ladies’ legs in the very back. These obviously belong to the people at the In Auction because they’re all of them wearing pinstripes.

Violet starts the chapter off with an upset cry of “These are doilies” telling us that I am right and this is exactly what was in the box. V.F.D. stands for, as I remembered a moment ago, ‘Very Fancy Doilies’.

The children give up all pretence that they don’t know who Gunther really is and switch back to calling him Olaf at once. Klaus is dismayed that Lot #50 was a red herring at which a voice from the crowd corrects him, after all, the red herring was Lot #48.

“Children, I’m very disturbed by your behaviour,” Mr Poe said. “You look like you haven’t washed in a week. You’re spending your money on ridiculous items. You run around accusing everybody of being Count Olaf in disguise. And now you’ve made a big mess of doilies on the floor. Someone is likely to trip and fall on all these slippery napkins. I would have thought that the Squalors would be raising you better than this.”

Love how Mr Poe always gets his priorities right. You’re dirty, you’re making false accusations and look at the mess you’ve made!

Esme chooses this moment to wash her hands of the Baudelaires. Jerome to his credit seems a little bit upset by this, probably more so because Esme kind of dumps him moments later as well. At which point Gunther offers to take the Baudelaires off their hands.

Unfortunately for Gunther, Mr Poe was actually right. As he steps forwards he slips on a doily, the impact of him hitting the floor makes his boots fall off (yes, really) and the children are once again proved right. You can’t help but wonder why Poe is so stubborn to accept what the children say when each time they correctly pick out Olaf from whichever disguise he has chosen to adopt.

Jerome is the one who spots the tattoo and calls him out as being Count Olaf. As if things we’re already dramatic enough, Esme decides to announce that she thinks evil counts are in, which leads to a discussion of how they’re really not, and allows Olaf the wonderful line “We’re not in. We’re out – out of the city!”

And just like that Esme and Olaf run out of the building. Everyone takes off after them but Esme and Olaf have a head start. Just in case we wanted to pretend that the book has a happy ending, Snicket does give us a kind of alternative ending in which they are captured, the Quagmires are found, we learn what V.F.D. really means along with the resolution to all the other little mysteries raised in the last six books, and everyone has a celebration. But despite there being another ten pages to go, none of these things are likely to happen.

What actually happens is everyone starts falling over doilies and each other, everyone that is except the Baudelaires who stick on the evil duo’s heels. At this point the doorman with the long sleeves is seen with his sleeves pushed up. Anyone care to hazard a guess at what he’s got where his hands should be?

Olaf takes a brief moment to tell the children he’ll be back for them at which Sunny says “Gonope?” and Violet translates it as “Where are Duncan and Isadora? Where have you taken them?” Believe it or not, Esme actually answers this question for them by pointing to a red herring in the back.

Here, again, Snicket gives us an alternative version of events, one which involves the children getting to the truck in time, the Quagmires escaping from the statue and the police catching Olaf. Once again, none of these things happen. Olaf gets away with Esme and the Quagmires once again.

Mr Poe shows up just as the Baudelaires stand outside the hall crying. Can’t really blame them, can you? If just one adult had listened to them, all this would’ve been different. All the same, Mr Poe announces he’s going to call the police and Jerome seems confident that this will solve all their problems, because it’s obviously worked out so well for them in the past.

I have to admit, although he has his faults, Jerome really isn’t too bad. He promises to take the Baudelaires away, even though his plan does involve forgetting the Quagmires and Olaf which maybe isn’t the healthiest of approaches to take. Luckily Klaus, Violet and Sunny have no intention of forgetting any of the things that have happened and they tell Jerome so quite heatedly. Sunny even adds “Tercul!” which means “And we don’t want to forget about everything else, either – like the underground hallway that led to our ruined mansion, and the real meaning of V.F.D.!”

And then, just to make sure I feel absolutely no sympathy for Jerome whatsoever, he tells the Baudelaires that if they are determined to find Olaf instead of living safely with him, then he can’t be their guardian any more. And then he leaves. Just walks away. Just like that. Bad move Jerome!

But something seems to have changed within the Baudelaires. Remember how the last few books have ended with them feeling all lost and hopeless. Well this time Violet immediately starts talking about the inventing skills she will need to find the Quagmires, Klaus talks about his research skills to solve the mysteries they’ve uncovered, and even Sunny says “Bite” which probably doesn’t need any translation.

And so this book actually ends on a kind of hopeful note. The Baudelaires are even smiling a little bit, because they’ve got each other. Aww. That’s kind of heartwarming, isn’t it?

The last image in the book is of the Baudelaires looking slightly less happy on the steps outside Veblen Hall. The doors look like something out of Rivendell and there are doilies floating around above them. Oh, and there’s a bird just flying into the picture which I think might just be a clue to the next book.

The other clue to the next book is in the form of a letter typewritten on a creased and stained sheet of paper which tells us that the next book is The Vile Village. There’s also something called V.F.D. crows, interesting.

Check back tomorrow to find out a bit more about this book.

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