Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Penultimate Peril, Chapter 11

The end of The Penultimate Peril is drawing ever closer. Here we are at Chapter Eleven, having seen the children being locked in a room to keep them safely out of the way until Justice Strauss can arrange a trial with two other judges to decide once and for all just who is guilty, and who isn’t.

What Happens?

The children are blindfolded, as are all the other people who are attending the court, that is everyone apart from the three judges who are presiding. First Olaf and then the children are asked to identify themselves and declare whether they are guilty or innocent, then the floor is opened for anyone who wishes to to submit evidence to do so. Then the accused are allowed to speak in their defence but part way through the children become suspicious when they hear Justice Strauss’s responses. They remove their blindfolds for a peak and see some very bad news indeed.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter shows an image of a crowd of people, all wearing blindfolds and all bumping into one another. There’s a boy on the left hand side, with some guy’s hand in his face, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s meant to be Klaus. On closer inspection I don’t think it is, since he’s wearing a spotty bowtie and has a flower in his lapel. There’s no sign of glasses either, so it’s just a random boy with a head shaped somewhat like Klaus Baudelaire’s. I suppose we’ll find out just what’s going on here when we read on.

An old expression, used even before the schism, says that people should not see the creation of laws or sausages. This makes sense, as the creation of sausages involves taking various parts of different animals and shaping them until they are presentable at breakfast, and the creation of laws involves taking various parts of different ideas and shaping them until they are presentable at breakfast, and most people prefer to spend their breakfasts eating food and reading the newspaper without being exposed to creation of any sort whatsoever.

I just had to copy that out.

Snicket goes on to explain that High Courts are responsible for interpreting laws and then implores us to stop reading the book and to do something better instead.

The Baudelaires are woken by Frank/Ernest who hands them blindfold, because ‘justice is blind’ of course. The High Court has decided that everyone should be blind during a trial. Sunny sums up my thoughts on this quite well when she says ‘Scalia’ meaning ‘ It doesn’t seem like the literal interpretation makes any sense’. He also gives the children some tea, though tellingly there is no sugar. Klaus tries to reply to this information with a quote from Kit Snicket but it doesn’t get much of a response from Frank/Ernest.

The children then settle down to drink their tea while Violet tells Sunny that she wishes their mother could see her now. This in turn prompts them to wonder just what their parents’ plans for them were.

It’s not long before Frank/Ernest comes to collection the children, so on the blindfolds go and they head out of the room. They can’t see Frank/Ernest and he can’t see them, since they’re all blindfolded. It doesn’t seem like this is the best way to deal with criminals. If everyone is blindfolded it would be really easy to take yours off and sneak away while no one was looking. Once again I am clearly revealing myself to be thoroughly ignoble.

It really is a case of the blind leading the blind as they all stumble through the hallway:

Violet was poked in the eye by someone’s chubby finger. Klaus was mistaken for someone named Jerry by a man who gave him an enormous hug before learning of his mistake. And someone bumped into Sunny’s head, assumed she was an ornamental vase, and tried to place an umbrella in her mouth.

Poor Sunny!

It’s now twelve o’clock on Wednesday and Justice Strauss is calling the proceedings to order. The judges are the only ones who are not wearing blindfolds. So in this case Justice is technically not blind then. At least this will make it harder for any bad guys to sneak away.

Apparently the plan had been to hold a trial on Thursday, but Dewey’s death has caused it to be bumped up the schedule a little. We also learn that the authorities are outside ready to arrest the guilty party when the trial is done. The reference to a ‘party’ prompts Olaf and Esme to start promoting their cocktail party. I love that Olaf introduces this with ‘Wealthy women are particularly welcome!”

First it’s Olaf’s turn to state their details for the record. Olaf says his occupation is ‘impressario’ and claims to be innocent. Then it’s the Baudelaires’ turn. They’re not sure how to answer the question about their occupations so they each interpret it in their own way:

“Volunteer,” Violet said.
“Concierge,” Klaus said.
“Child,” Sunny said.

Aww, Sunny.

Olaf objects to this, suggesting that they should give their occupation as ‘orphan, or inheritor of a large fortune’. Then it’s time for the children to declare whether they are guilty or innocent. Klaus speaks for the trio when he says ‘We’re comparatively innocent’. I’d say they’re definitely way more innocent than Olaf, though I don’t think they’ve got much evidence in their favour, since most of the witnesses who could speak for them are dead!

The judges call for the people gathered to submit evidence. Everyone has something they want to submit as evidence. I did consider listing some of it but it goes on over nearly four pages. I’ve not got the energy for that.

With all the evidence ready to be reviewed, the accused are asked to make a statement to defend their actions. Olaf tries to give a little acrostic poem as evidence for how innocent he is, until Strauss cuts him off because of his atrocious spelling. He announces that in that case “‘innocence’ should be spelled O-L-A-F.” And with that he’s done. Strauss is a little taken aback by this but accepts it and moves on to the Baudelaires.

This is literally the first time anyone has asked the children to tell their side of the story. So we go right back to the beginning with the children hanging out at Briny Beach and Sunny seeing Mr Poe walking towards them. Justice Strauss is saying ‘hmm’ each time one Baudelaire pauses to let another one take up the tale. When Sunny says ‘Bildungsroman’ meaning ‘Since that moment, our story has been a long, dreadful education in the wicked ways of the world and the mysterious secrets hidden in all of its corners’, it becomes apparent that there is something unusual about the way Strauss keeps saying ‘hmm’. Sunny’s reminded of a time she was gagged and suspended out a window in a birdcage and immediately suspects that Strauss has tape across her mouth.

The children have only one choice now. They’ll have to take a look to see what is going on with the woman, even if it means being held in contempt. They stop telling the story and take a quick glimpse. The desk is covered in evidence but Justice Strauss is not there. She is being bundled away by Olaf who is heading for the lift and seems to be taking the harpoon gun with him.

And as if that’s not bad enough, sitting at the concierge desk are two familiar faces; a man with a beard but no hair and a woman with hair but no beard.

I’ve got a feeling this is going to be a mistrial.

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