Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Slippery Slope, Chapter 2

Here we are onto Chapter 2 of The Slippery Slope from The Series of Unfortunate Events. I really remember nothing of this book at all so it’s quite interesting to read it again. It’s part new book, part reminder of a book I’ve already read several times.

In the last chapter we left the Baudelaires peering off the edge of a cliff that the caravan they had been travelling in had just gone over the edge of. And they are still miles away from their baby sister.

What Happens?

Violet and Klaus look at what they recovered from the caravan and realise that there’s nothing they can use to make a vehicle so they start walking. Along the way they find it is getting colder and colder, then they’re attacked by a swarm of vicious insects called snow gnats. They take shelter in a cave in the mountainside. And find someone there they really did not expect.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter’s picture is also simultaneously the chapter header. The words ‘CHAPTER TWO’ are spelt out in bugs. It’s a bit hard to see on some of the letters but there are some that are a little closer than others, helpfully allowing us to see exactly how the letters are being created. This means that in this chapter there will be bugs. Lots of them, I’m guessing.

Violet’s being practical. She hands Klaus a coat and tells him that it’s going to get cold the higher up they get. Klaus, being equally practical, asks her how they’re actually going to get there.This prompts Violet to take stock. They managed to recover two piles of stuff from the caravan before they lost it. Klaus has a pitcher, a mirror, a poncho and a jumper, while Violet has a bread knife, a ukulele and a coat. None of these things seem like they could be turned into a vehicle, but then again, I’m not an inventing genius like Violet.

Violet considers how they could use their supplies to attract attention but Klaus points out that this road is likely to be ‘less traveled’ like that poem I mentioned earlier today. Violet wants to know if the poem has a happy ending and Klaus admits that it’s a somewhat ambiguous ending. There’s nothing for it, they have to just take it all with them and start moving.

Violet’s not actually sure where they’re moving towards, but Klaus remembers the map and knows that they have to follow the Stricken Stream. This does not hearten Violet, after all, they have no supplies. Klaus is confident that they can find caves to sleep in but that still doesn’t solve the problem of finding food. Snicket mentions that both children are wishing for a different means of transportation:

But wishing, like sipping a glass of punch, or pulling aside a bearskin rug in order to access a hidden trapdoor in the floor, is merely a quiet way to spend one’s time before the candles are extinguished on one’s birthday cake, and the Baudelaires knew that it would be best to stop wishing and start their journey.

I love Snicket’s little random comments. But yeah, the kids pack up the things they salvaged from the caravan and start to make a move up the mountain.

Neither of them speak for a long time. They’re both deep in thought about the things that have happened during the last nine books. I don’t really think I need to go into detail about them. Suffice to say, they’re both thinking of the Quagmires, what V.F.D. actually stands for, Carmelita Spats and whether or not one of the Baudelaire parents did survive.

When she’s finished thinking all these deep and confusing thoughts, Violet remembers that Klaus wanted to say something to her when it looked like they were going to hurtle to certain death in the runaway caravan. Klaus doesn’t really remember exactly what he wanted to say, and now he can’t remember what the last thing he said to Sunny was but that if he’d known it would be the last thing he would get to say to her, he would’ve made it something special. Aww, Klaus. :-(

Violet tries to reassure Klaus that he’ll get to tell Sunny that she makes nice hot chocolate and that she was very good in her disguise, but Klaus doesn’t seem very optimistic. Can’t really blame him. Violet’s confident that Sunny won’t be hurt, since Olaf needs a Baudelaire to get the fortune and he’ll assume Violet and Klaus were killed.

Their attention then turns to the Stricken Stream which is a funny ‘grayish black’ and is making the fish cough. Klaus rattles off a list of things that might change the colour of the water (this includes ‘Iron ore’ and ‘There might be an ink or licorice factory nearby’). Klaus is hopeful that one of their parents might know the answer to this question but Violet is quick to warn him not to get his hopes up. Klaus counters that they’ve got danger and a madman ahead of them, perhaps he needs something to help motivate him to keep walking towards it. He’s got a point.

Violet doesn’t argue, instead she announces that she needs another layer of clothing. She ends up wearing the poncho (which she’s sporting on the front cover). Klaus, meanwhile, puts on the sweater but turns it inside out so he won’t advertise the carnival. The carnival which has burned down and isn’t there any more. At least their current appearance gives the children something to smile about.

Klaus wonders aloud about which parent might have survived. This is followed by Violet asking a question, which Snicket informs us is a bad thing because nothing good seems to come of people asking this question, she says ‘What in the world is that ominous-looking cloud of tiny, white buzzing objects coming towards us?’

Care to know the answer?

A swarm of well-organized, ill-tempered insects known as snow gnats, who live in cold mountain areas and enjoy stinging people for no reason whatsoever.

This means that snow gnats are basically the Mortmain Mountain version of Scottish midges. Midges are insects which are 90% mouth and like to go around nomming on people any time the weather looks remotely sunny.

Klaus is trying to remember what he’s read about these insects as they form the shape of an arrow pointing towards the children and then start heading towards them. As they get closer Klaus tries to remember something else that he knows he read about snow gnats. Then one stings Violet on the nose and he remembers. They sting.

By this point the children are in the middle of a whole swarm of them. Klaus reassures his sister that although the stings are poisonous, they’re only mildly so. He also has to tell him that the old saying about not bothering stinging insects to make sure they don’t sting you isn’t always true, and is definitely not true for snow gnats.

To demonstrate this the snow gnats launch another attack. In the end Klaus realises that if they throw the spare coat over them it will help protect them. So that’s what they do. The snow gnats aren’t impressed and it’s not really very easy to walk while holding a coat over your head.

Luckily Klaus remembers something else about them. They don’t like fire. That’s not very helpful while they’re having to hide under a coat. Violet’s feeling pretty miserable, her thumb’s taken multiple stings. Klaus has spotted a cave through a worn patch of the coat and suggests that they could start a fire in there. Violet deadpans that perhaps they’d just succeed in annoying a hibernating animal. All the same, Klaus thinks they don’t have much alternative. So they head towards it, ‘taking a chance’ which prompts Snicket to explain:

Taking one’s chances is like taking a bath, because sometimes you end up feeling comfortable and warm, and sometimes there is something terrible lurking around that you cannot see until it is too late and you can do nothing else but scream and cling to a plastic duck.

I’m guessing that thing would be the spider which is hovering right above the bath until the moment you slip in, lie back, relax, open your eyes and look up. And it’s right there!

So the kids head for the cave and Snicket decides to give away a little of the ending of the book. He mentions that later they come back down the mountain after they’re been reunited with Sunny and have learned about ‘Verbal Fridge Dialogue’. That’s another V.F.D. which we’re probably going to learn about later in this book. Hopefully. There are so many questions in this series and the answers only seem to introduce more questions.

Inside the cave the children find that they are not alone. First of all, someone’s already started a fire there, and secondly that person welcomes them with ‘Hey you cakesniffers!’

And we know exactly who came up with that little catch phrase.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think. :-)