Monday, 26 January 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Carnivorous Carnival, Chapter 11

We’re coming to the close of the ninth book in The Series of Unfortunate Events, The Carnivorous Carnival. We’ve got three chapters left to go this week (and take it from me, one of those chapters is really, really short compared to some of the others in this book).

So let’s get on with Chapter 11.

What Happens?

Violet and Klaus step onto the plank, still trying to work out how to get out of this situation. They suggest that Olaf be the one to push them into the pit, when he declines Madame Lulu is suggested as an alternative. After a lot of stalling the crowd gets more and more bloodthirsty until, in the general pushing and shoving, two people fall into the lion pit.

Thoughts as I read:

We’ve got another picture of the crowd to start the chapter off again. This time they don’t look very happy. The man at the front has a club and is having his tie pulled, someone behind him seems to be punching him, so I guess that explains his look of displeasure. There’s someone off to the right who looks like Olaf and someone with a bushy beard and moustache which looks like a disguise. Meanwhile above their heads there are all sorts of things flying around; a drinks cup, popcorn, a toupee and someone’s purse. In short, it appears that chaos will soon descend.

There is another writer I know, who, like myself, is thought by a great deal of people to be dead. His name is William Shakespeare, and his has written four kinds of plays: comedies, romances, histories, and tragedies.

Anyone care to guess which one Snicket knows the most about?

If you said tragedies then you’d be right. Snicket explains that the latter is what the Baudelaire’s story is all about and then goes on to give us a quick rundown of King Lear which basically allows him to quote from Shakespeare about how people can hurt one another. This is especially apt considering that everyone is currently waiting for Violet and Klaus to be eaten by lions.

Despite their certain doom, Klaus actually starts to thank Olaf for selecting them to go into the lion pit. This surprises Olaf somewhat, I’m surprised too, since if I’d just been told I was expected to jump into a lion pit I’d kick the person in the nuts and make a run for it. Probably just as well I’m not one of the Baudelaires. All the same it’s easy to wonder if the Baudelaires aren’t suffering a little from the stress of the situation because suddenly Violet starts suggesting that perhaps the crowd would like to see ‘someone push a freak into the pit’. The crowd, unsurprisingly, agrees to this.

It doesn’t look like the children have any other option but to step a little closer towards the pit full of hungry lions. If you remember they’re trying to employ the dual tactics of stalling and mob psychology though I’m not entirely sure how this is supposed to work. According to Snicket, their plan is working though.

The next minute Klaus is saying that Chabo thinks Olaf should be the one to push them into the pit. This is all just getting weirder and weirder but everyone agrees that this would be good. Despite being deeply honoured, Olaf declines this suggestion as he’s allergic to cats and can’t get too close to the lions. It’s soon pointed out to him that he didn’t have any problems with his allergies when he was whipping the lions the other day.

Soon he’s coming up with other excuses (it’s not his job since he’s an actor) so Madame Lulu is suggested as an alternative by Esme. Lulu is quick to point out that her job is fortune telling, not murdering freaks. But everyone decides that they would be perfectly happy to witness Lulu doing the pushing. I still have no idea where this is going. And I realise I’ve read this book several times before, but I honestly can’t think what will happen next, though I have a funny feeling that I know what is going to happen to Lulu/Olivia.

So Lulu’s taken her place on the plank ready to push Violet and Klaus in, while the crowd hopes for a good show and the possibility of Esme falling in as well. By this point the elder Baudelaires are teetering on the edge of the plank and I discover that the reason for the stalling and mob psychology was to get the crowd all worked up to give them an opportunity to slip away. Unfortunately now that they’re standing on the edge of a plank over a pit of hungry lions there doesn’t seem to be much of an opportunity for an escape.

By now everyone is getting fed up with the delay and despite Klaus’s assertions that he’s trying to increase the suspense, the crowd, Olaf and the henchpeople just want to get on with the show. Although Madame Lulu seemed a bit apprehensive about pushing the children into the pit, faced with the prospect of being whipped, she’s probably pretty much decided that she’s going to have to do it. At that moment though the hook-handed man steps forward to take her place, since he’s the only one brave enough. This sets Hugo off because obviously he, Colette and Kevin are also brave enough.

They want to demonstrate to Olaf how brave they are so that they can become his henchpeople as well. This latest development is of little interest to the crowd. They don’t want to hear people professing how useful they can be to Count Olaf, instead they want to see people being eaten by lions, preferably as sloppily and violently as possible. Violet, as Beverly, suggests that she get off the plank so they can all discuss things calmly, which just sets everyone off complaining about this instead.

So Madame Lulu decides that the moment has come. To be fair, she does apologise to Violet and Klaus as she snatches the fan belt away from Violet and prepares to push them in. Sunny is shocked by this development and yells ‘Trenceth!’ meaning ‘ You ought to be ashamed of yourself!’ though I can’t say I’m all that surprised. Madame Lulu has always seemed like a bit of a flaky character so I was kind of expecting something like this all along. Oh, and of course I have read this book before (though I’ve forgotten most of it).

No sooner has Lulu said that she’s going to do it, so do half a dozen other people, setting off a half page chorus of people yelling ‘I’ll do it!’ Olaf is unimpressed by this so starts waving his whip around and promising a ‘special reward’ for whoever actually gets on with doing the deed. This sets off a disastrous domino effect. Everyone wants the special reward so they all start pushing and shoving to get to push and/or shove Violet and Klaus. As you can imagine, this does not end well.

On the one hand, it’s not all bad. The Baudelaires are able to get away from the edge of the lion pit. Unfortunately not everyone is that lucky. The children hear the noise of the lions and the crowd cheering, so we learn that it is Madame Lulu who has fallen into the pit. This doesn’t surprise me because it’s been one of the only bits of the whole book I’ve been able to remember! What I didn’t remember was that with Lulu goes the bald man and with them both goes the fan belt.

We’re used to unhappy endings in these books but this is definitely an unhappy ending for Olivia (who was apparently Snicket’s former associate) and the bald headed man (even if he was a bad guy and part of Olaf’s troupe).

It’s not looking so happy for the Baudelaires either.

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