Friday, 16 January 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Carnivorous Carnival, Chapter 6

We’re almost at the halfway point of this book now and things haven’t exactly been going well for the Baudelaires up to this point, but as is customary for this series of books, things are obviously about to get a hell of a lot worse now!

What Happens?

In Madame Lulu’s tent the children discover a bit of machinery which Violet uses to explain away the lightning and magical noises that Olaf reported hearing in the tent. The children then find a lot of paperwork underneath the crystal ball table that suggests that someone has been keeping an eye on them for some time. Things are going quite well, until disaster strikes as the crystal ball rolls off the table and shatters.

Thoughts as I read:

I’m wondering if this picture is a little clue to where Madame Lulu is getting her information from. The words ‘Chapter Six’ are inside the crystal ball which is sitting on a cloth covered table. The cloth is parted like theatre curtains (which is what I thought it was a picture of to start off with!) and the first paragraph is in the middle, as though it’s under the table. Perhaps the crystal ball is like a little computer screen with everything being hidden under the table… or something like that.

The opening of this chapter discusses things that are hard to hide. It gives the example of an aeroplane, which given the events of last year reads slightly differently to how it would’ve done a year ago. Other examples of things that are hard to hide are symphony orchestras and yourself:

And it is difficult to hide yourself, because you sometimes need to stuff yourself into the trunk of an automobile, or concoct a disguise out of whatever you can find, but it is easy to hide a secret about yourself, because you can merely type it into a book and hope it falls into the right hands. My dear sister, if you are reading this, I am still alive, and heading north to try and find you.

Real subtle, Mr Snicket.

The children don’t know where to begin looking for these mysterious hidden secrets (and the means by which Madame Lulu has been learning them). With no other alternatives occurring to them, the Baudelaires walk through what Olaf said he did when he visited Lulu’s tent. The first step is turning off the lights, Sunny helps them out by saying ‘Switch’ and pointing it out.

Violet is lamenting the loss of her hair ribbon to help her think, when Klaus produces it. Sunny says ‘Yerz’ meaning it’s the one that Violet was wearing when she was abducted in the hospital. With the hair ribbon in place, Violet is feeling a lot more ready to tackle the task at hand. She’s already following the cables connected to the switches to see where they are coming from. It’s not long before she identifies a gadget with a mirror which allows Madame Lulu to look outside the tent without leaving it.

Violet tries to get her bearings and tries to work out which direction the mirror is facing. ‘Yirat’ Sunny says, meaning ‘I remember – the famous hinterlands sunset’ allowing Violet to work out the gap in the tent is facing to the east. Violet’s got the gadget all figured out and rather than explaining to her brother and sister how it works, she flips the switch to demonstrate. This proves that the buzzing noise wasn’t coming from the crystal ball but from the whirring of the mechanism.

Sunny raises a valid point: ‘Legror?’ meaning ‘But what about the lightning?’ The mirror again explains this: when the sun is rising, it will face the gap in the tent and so the movement of the machine will make the lights flicker. With the lights off Olaf wouldn’t know what was causing it. ‘Eerie’ says Sunny, which doesn’t exactly call for a translation. Klaus sums it up pretty well “So Madame Lulu is a fake”, which prompts Sunny to ask ‘Chesro?’ which means ‘But if she’s a fake, how did she know that one of our parents was alive?’

Violet has to break the news to her sister, Madame Lulu almost certainly made up that little nugget of information. After all, she tells Olaf exactly what he wants to hear. This news is obviously upsetting to Sunny. It’s Klaus who reminds his sister that although Lulu might be making stuff up, she’s still remarkably accurate in her guesswork. She seems to have seen the same information as the Baudelaires saw in the Snicket file.

Sunny suggests that perhaps the clue to where the information has been found is in the crystal ball. Her siblings try to dissuade her, but Sunny continues to point at the crystal ball and say ‘There!’ And sure enough there’s something sticking out from underneath the table.

It doesn’t seem very helpful, it’s just a note that says:

‘My Dear Duchess, Your masked ball sounds like a fantastic evening, and I look forward to…’

But it points them in the right direction and so they look beneath the tablecloth. Snicket takes a moment to remind us of all the libraries that we have visited over the course of these books as under the crystal ball table is yet another library. And so they’ve figured out how Madame Lulu does it. She gets her visitors to close their eyes and then rifles around under the table to find out the answers to what they’re asking. Sunny sums it up best with ‘Cheat!’

There’s a newspaper article about the Village of Fowl Devotees taken on the Baudelaires, which quite easily led Olaf to them. I wonder who Lulu’s source is because she’s also got a list of new students at Prufrock Prep. You’d think there would be some sort of data protection law preventing that, but apparently not. Even Sunny spots something, saying ‘Us!’ and pointing to a photo of them taken at Damocles Dock.

While Violet and Klaus are wondering who might have taken the picture, Sunny says ‘Back’ and they find a message on the back. It says ‘This might be hopeful’ or possibly ‘helpful’, the writing isn’t very clear. Whoever wrote it signing the picture with either an R or a K, which means that the mystery is only deepening. It would be great if some questions could be answered without posing even more questions in their place!

The Baudelaires are understandably freaked out at the thought of someone randomly taking their photo without them knowing it. Can’t say I blame them there. Sunny says ‘Heebie-jeebies’ meaning Let’s get out of here. I’m really getting the creeps.’ Besides, they can’t stay in the tent too much longer, someone might come and find them.

They decide to stuff their pockets with all the information they can carry. I really hope that Madame Lulu doesn’t notice all her paperwork missing. Klaus protests that he can’t do this as he’s got all the Quagmires’ notes and Page 13 of the Snicket File there already. In the end they decide to scan what they can to see if they can see their names and just take those. As they start rooting around under there Sunny says ‘Mishap’ to warn her siblings that if they pull on the tablecloth the crystal ball might fall off.

Unfortunately, despite this warning, that is exactly what happens. Sure enough, the crystal ball falls to the floor and smashes, loudly enough to attract the attention of Madame Lulu.

This will obviously not bode well for the children.

Don't forget, these posts will be returning to their normal schedule on Monday. Have a good weekend.

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