6 thoughts on “Unfortunate Associates: The Wide Window

  1. Lots of fun, as always! And, I have a couple of bones to pick with y’all. 😛

    Firstly, my ire at the suggestion that Mr. Poe is secretly working for Count Olaf is downright Brobdingnagian. (Sorry, sorry… :P)

    The whole point of Mr. Poe is incompetence. That’s an absolute linchpin of the entire series: Authorities, systems, and rules that are well-meaning, but utterly ineffective. It’s exaggerated, of course — it’s much easier to see the incompetence when it’s absurd, instead of mundane and drowning in trivialities and bureaucracy.

    But if you go and say “Goodness, this is so incompetent that it must actually be malicious,” then you’re missing the entire point. Olaf always remains Olaf – cruel, ruthless, and absurd. But the real problem is that the children have no protection against the Olafs of the world – all the protectors that they’re supposed to have are oblivious, or ineffectual, or have their hands tied, or… Each one has their excuses.

    If you interpret “absurdly fails to help the children” as “is probably secretly malicious,” you’ve lost all that. So much of the series is about the strength, determination, clarity, and desperation it takes to cut through the excuses, the blindness, the obstacles — not about “How do you foil a dastardly plot once you encounter it.” 😛

    1. Yeah, it’s a very blatantly wrong theory, but I like to find evidence that supports it for fun. How does Count Olaf know where the children will be sent next? In book 4, he sends a member of his acting troup to their next home a WEEK in advance, so he obviously has some insider information.

      Just like the theory about how Mr. Poe is actually secretly a woman, I don’t think there’s much basis in fact. I do, however, think there are enough painfully oblivious people caught up in the bureaucracy of the ASOUE universe and sometimes it’s much more pleasant to consider they might be willfully ignorant.


  2. Bone number two is: I might be mis-remembering, because it’s been a loooong time since I read The Wide Window. But there is a very excellent reason for the leeches to only attack people who have eaten within the last hour.

    The reason is: utter farce.

    I don’t know how widespread this still is, but it used to be everywhere: Kids would be warned not to swim for at least an hour after they’ve eaten.

    This was mystifying. You’d ask why, and adults would say, “cramps.” I still have no idea what this is meant to mean. I never saw any way eating could make me feel bad when swimming; when I did try it, I felt absolutely fine; it just seems like a weird, superstitious kind of rule. (Probably some people do get cramps maybe? Maybe.)

    So what you’re seeing here, if I remember the book well enough, is anxious, anxious Aunt Josephine, telling the children how scary everything is, telling them all the arbitrary rules to protect themselves, and one of the rules is our favorite, “And don’t go swimming an hour after you eat?”
    “Why not?”
    “–Because the leeches will eat you.”

    It still gets me smiling. Leeches that know when you’ve eaten in the last hour seems to me like a much more sensible explanation than “cramps”.

    1. Weirdly enough, people can actually get cramps by swimming too soon after eating. I found this article (http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/everyday-myths/question510.htm) on the subject which is full of a lot of terms I don’t understand (I’m no expert on the human body). Essentially what I think it boils down to is that one part of your brain has an automated response so it can digest the food and get the energy from that, but you’re consciously telling your body to do something entirely different, SPENDING energy to move in the water rather than conserving yourself so your body can do it’s work.

      I totally did get the farce of the whole situation and I always think that’s hilarious. This is a world where snakes can lock other snakes in cages, leeches attack you based on when you last ate, and people are paid in coupons for a days work. I love it.


  3. And a last observation: The comparison between the children and Aunt Josephine, as someone who has had her own life full of unfortunate events, is a very intriguing one. I don’t think I caught that when I first read the book, but it casts Josephine in a very different light.

    We keep bringing up how awful the things that happen to the children are, how any normal child would be scarred for life… and here we have a character who has been scarred for life. She’s a reflection of what the Baudelaire children might grow up into, even if they do survive Olaf. If the lesson they take from life is “The world is a horrible, dangerous place and disaster can strike at any moment,” which would not be very unreasonable, then they’d end up the same as her.

    1. I think the main thing that separates the Baudelaires from Aunt Josephine and many of the ignorant, scared, or straight up evil people around them is their bond. Snicket makes a point of ending a lot of the books with the children appreciating each other and, as long as they’re together, they can withstand many awful things.

      There are seeds of darkness in the Baudelaires at times that could flourish into problems if they weren’t around to keep each other in check. Klaus is brash and impulsive sometimes. He stands up to Count Olaf in book 1 and tries to show off later after he learns Olaf’s plan.

      They’re also so young, we don’t know who they’ll become. I don’t remember much of the later books so I’m excited to read them and see how the children change as they grow, but the way Snicket talks about them, it seems like they may be adults already when he’s writing the books.

      Thanks for listening to the show! I really appreciate the feedback/discussion.


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