Friday, 3 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator, Chapter 4

It’s Friday, so obviously it’s a double posting day. Don’t forget to check back later on for the Chapter 5 post, after all, now that Olaf is on the scene again things are going to be getting interesting.

What Happens?

The children come face-to-face with Count Olaf who is now disguising himself as an auctioneer and Esme’s new best friend, named Gunther. The children try to explain that he is not who he says he is but this upsets Esme and eventually they are forced to give up and leave with Jerome to go to dinner. He tries to cheer them up by having them all slide down the bannisters on the way out of the building, because that will improve the situation.

Thoughts as I read:

This picture for the chapter shows Violet sliding down the bannister, not wearing a pinstripe suit. So either this is another day, when they’re not eating at Cafe Salmonella, or the Baudelaires have decided to get changed out of the pinstripe suites as they don’t fit them at all. I’m guessing sliding down the handrails is the quickest way to get down, if only there was another way to get up the stairs so quickly.

The chapter starts off with a discussion of the periodic table and how it is proof that scientists can get things wrong. I was expecting this to be about how since it was devised they have found new elements. Snicket goes for a more literary approach, pointing out that there is no element of surprise listed on the periodic table. Why is this mentioned? Well, because Olaf has clearly got the element of surprise here.

Obviously he’s disguised again. He’s trying out a new voice, saying ‘Hello, please’ and he’s wearing almost knee-high boots. He’s also got a monocle and a pinstripe suit, so he fits into the ‘in’ scene. This time around he’s pretending to be Gunther, who does not speak English very well, hence the need to say ‘please’ at the end of every sentence.

I quite like the next three paragraphs which has each of the children starting to ask a question but then not actually finishing what they were going to say. Violet begins with “How”, intending to ask “How did you find us so quickly, and how did you get past the doorman, who promised to keep you away from us?” I’m guessing the doorman is one of his cronies. Klaus gets out “Where” but doesn’t finish his sentence to ask “Where have you put the Quagmire triplets?”. And even Sunny, who usually speaks in near monosyllables, can only manage “Bik” which is the beginning of “Bikayado?” which sounds Japanese and apparently means “What new evil plan have you cooked up to steal our fortune?”

Esme shows up at this point, helpfully telling Guther/Olaf that she and Jerome are just the legal guardians, not the Baudelaires’ parents. She briefly wishes that she could auction off orphans at the In Auction, evidently, this is not legal, but Esme would probably do it if she could get away with it.
Violet decides to get straight to the point and tells the Squalors straight out that Gunther is not Gunther at all. He’s obviously Olaf. Klaus takes over when Violet finishes, and even Sunny joins in with “Waran”. Together they suggest stripping him of his disguise to prove that he is not who he says he is. Obviously, this is all pointless. If they were to discover that Gunther is Olaf on page 66 then there’s not going to be much else happening on the coming pages.

And of course, I’m right. Esme dismisses the children, just like every other adult has dismissed the children up to this point. I was a little bit older when I read these books, as in late teens, but I wonder how many children read these books and feel like they are being ignored and overlooked by adults. Jerome, to his credit, does attempt to ask Esme how they can be sure Gunther is who he claims to be but she threatens to kick Jerome out if he disagrees with her. As I’ve said before, Jerome could do better than her and this is clearly his opportunity to get out.

And so the Baudelaires give up their argument and so the children decide to go to dinner with Jerome and try to figure out how to deal with the situation. The children all make fake apologies and then prepare to leave. Klaus happens to mention that his suit is a little too big and that sets Esme off again, clearly the orphans might be in, but unfortunately hers are rude.

Once they’re out of earshot, Jerome tells the children that there is a way to set their minds at ease. Violet asks if they can check for the ankle tattoo, Klaus wants to check for the monobrow, while Sunny says “Resyca!” meaning “Or you could simply ask him to leave the penthouse, and never return!” Jerome intends for them to do none of those things, after all, you must be polite to your guests. No, his solution to all their worries is to slide down the bannisters, so that they will not be late for dinner.

Evidently this puts Jerome into the cloudcuckoolander category of Baudelaire guardians. He’s kind of up there with Charles and Aunt Josephine, whereas Esme is definitely more of the Nero vein. And so he leads them out to the staircase and demonstrates how to slide down the bannisters, laughing and chuckling like he doesn’t have a care in the world.

The Baudelaires, on the other hand, have all the cares in the world. The Squalors have invited Olaf into their new home, and now there will be no escape, and once again it’s going to be up to themselves to find their way out of this situation.

Check back later to see what they’ll be doing to get away from Olaf this time.

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