Thursday, 26 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Penultimate Peril, Chapter 7

As of the previous ‘Not A Chapter’ we’ve been reassured that the following chapters are resuming their normal sequence. This might mean that the Baudelaires will be rejoining one another and comparing notes on what they’ve learned. Or it might mean something else. We’ll see.

What Happens?

The children share their findings once it gets later and the lobby falls silent. They realise that although they’re seeing lots of little bits of the mystery, they just can’t see the bigger picture. They turn out the lights and try to got to sleep, but Klaus realises that the sugar bowl is going to be delivered by crow and dropped down the funnel into the laundry room. At that moment a figure descends from the ceiling; but it’s not Frank and it’s not Ernest.

Thoughts as I read:

The chapter image for Chapter Seven is of a frog. It’s actually of a frog lamp. I quite like it. I used to have a duvet cover and pillow case set as a child which had frogs all over it; this would not look out of place beside a bed with that on it. The frog is sitting on a lily pad and coming out of the top of its head is a pole with a lampshade on it. The lampshade is decorated with a lily pad pattern (which kind of looks like a bunch of Pac Man heads) and hanging from it is a little cord with a fly on the end of it. It’s cute.

While the Baudelaires are listening to the clock chiming three o’clock there a other things going on around the hotel. There’s mention of an ambidextrous man talking into a walkie talkie, I guess that’s Kevin. We also get an explanation of those pictures from the non-chapters:

On the sixth story, one of the housekeepers removed a disguise, and drilled a hole behind an ornamental vase in order to examine the cables that held one of the elevators in place, while listening to the faint sound of a very annoying song coming from a room just above her.

There are other occurrences around the hotel; someone making a discovery about how to read Hebrew mirror writing, a banker picking up the phone and finding no one is on the other end, a family who have been hunting for a doily for nearly a decade are unaware that it is in the hotel. There are obviously lots of other stories going on in the background which we haven’t been aware of while all the focus is on the Baudelaires. There are even four children on a beach who are about to receive some very bad news. It’s all starting all over again.

Luckily the Baudelaires have been reunited and get to spend the rest of the day working in the lobby. They’re so busy that they just don’t get time to talk about all the things they saw while they were apart. I won’t recap what they share, we recapped it here already. Klaus takes over my job and writes it all in his commonplace book but even with it all written out, it doesn’t make it any clearer.

We get a stream of questions as the children try to make sense of all this information. I won’t copy them here before I’m sure we’re already asking all the same questions as they are. Eventually Sunny sums it all up with ‘Frankernest’ which they still aren’t any nearer to figure out. Plus this has an added element of mystery. Violet, Klaus and Sunny all met with Frank/Ernest right before 3pm. How is that possible? Unless there are three of them…

While they’re trying to puzzle it all out Sunny says ‘Elephant’ and then follows it up with ‘Poem’ and ‘Father’ by way of an explanation. When they still don’t get what they mean she says ‘John Godfrey Saxe’ which explains it all. This is referring to a poem, by the aforementioned poet, about six blind men who come across an elephant, they all feel different bits of the animal so make different assumptions about what they’ve encountered because they can’t see the whole. This is what is happening with the mystery at the hotel, see?

The children carry on talking the clock begins to chime twelve o’clock. They seem to be the only ones still up so they curl up behind the desk, switch off the (frog) lamp and try to sleep. Sunny points out the obvious ‘It’s dark’ and the resulting conversation leads to Klaus figuring something out. He’s realised that the sugar bowl is going to be delivered tonight by crow.

This explains everything. That’s why people are up on the roof looking out for something; that’s why Carmelita needed a harpoon gun, for shooting crows. Unfortunately it doesn’t answer all the questions, like the birdpaper which would either signal defeat or triumph depending on whether it was Frank or Ernest who asked them to hang it out the window.

It’s Sunny who explains that all being well the sugar bowl will fall into the laundry room, or as she says ‘Spynsickle’. I think I should start calling the back lobby the ‘spynsickle’ room. The problem is, they don’t know who asked Sunny to put the lock on the door; it’s either locked away from the villains, or locked away from the volunteers.

One thing is for certain; they need to find out who J.S. is. Man or woman? Villain or volunteer? Help or hindrance? And the hotel is definitely a hindrance, it’s a big library and it doesn’t even have a catalogue. Sunny eventually says ‘The world is quiet here’, reminding them of the sign over the library at the ruined headquarters. This prompts them to look up and they see a shape lowering itself down from the ceiling.

We get a full page image just so we can see exactly what this looks like. Down at the bottom left hand side of the the picture we can see Violet and Klaus in full concierge gear, holding up the frog lamp. We can see the big columns, the domed ceiling with eye shapes incorporated into the decoration, and hanging down from the centre is a rope with a figure climbing down it. From this picture it looks like a monkey, but it probably isn’t.

This man has a uniform on as well, it’s got ‘MANAGER’ printed on one of the pockets. This man tells them that they do have a catalogue for the hotel and invites them to follow him, to which Sunny says ‘Trap’. Mystery Manager tells the children that he knew their father and used to have to recite the work of a poet to prove who he was. As if to reassure the children he recites the poem about the elephant and the blind men:

“So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!”

Snicket briefly analyses this stanza of poetry, culminating in Sunny figuring out that this man is someone they can trust. But he’s not Frank and he’s not Ernest either.

So there are three of them. Dun dun DUUUUNNN!

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