Handler does seem to imply towards the end of the book that we shouldn't have all of the answers, because (like Ishmael was saying), to understand the answers you would need to know all of the stories connected, which would take far too long.
As for the image, my copy of 'The End' contains no such image of the ocean/question mark. Either it was some sort of error in printing, or I am very, very ignorant. If someone could scan and post the image I would greatly appreciate it as I cannot find it anywhere.
Post by Sugary Snicket on Jan 9, 2008 21:10:27 GMT -5
Perhaps the Question Mark is Ink. He *did* return in TE...
I just had an epiphany. The question mark on the radar in the Sub - Olaf saw it... and I was thinking about the possibility of it representing death. What if it was foreshadowing Olaf's death? It makes sense...
The dot on the '?' would be hard to accomplish for a snake. And I seriously doubt that Ink would have consumed the quagmires and the others who fell from the self sustaining baloon. However it could have foreshadowed Olafs death, but it is obvious that it has a much, much greater significance than just that
Post by Sailor Bellairs on Feb 18, 2008 14:01:00 GMT -5
Well its said that no-one ever comes back from the great unknown and it can't just be death because kit said that the Quagmires saw it in the sea and then swam [dived] to it. We know that the image on radar is not the shape of the submarine because olafs was an eye [?] and the QueeQueg [spelling?] was Just a Q. It must be that it has no symbol that the radars know. Its just another thing to make us guys keep guessing. Olaf would have been scared of it because he is scared of what he doesn't know or understand.
I'm not entirely sure that symbol argument stands up to scrutiny. The Queequeg is represented by a Q, sure, but that's perhaps barely necessary given that it's at the centre of things and they're in it, they know what shape it is; however, the eye accurately depicts the shape of Olaf's submarine - a round shape with eyelashes, tentacles, wiggling from every side (eh, a somewhat stylised eye, at any rate, but no worse than the V.F.D. insignia). The Baudelaires and Kit both verify that the actual shape of the Great Unknown when seen "in the flesh" is like a question mark - the Baudelaires see it curling and uncurling and compare it to an eyebrow, i.e. being long, and Kit directly describes it as like a question mark. It also seems like everyone but Kit and Ink didn't know what the Great Unknown was any more than she did - they chose to "take their chances," but as it got near it seems they didn't have any choice about going with it, they were gone "in an instant."
I also think its question mark shape is somewhat misrepresented. The Great Unknown is described as having a long curved tube led by a small circle; in the actual punctuation mark, those two elements are not connected, but I think we may accept that on the actual entity itself they are. Imagine drawing a question mark without taking one's pen from the paper. As a submarine or creature, this would figure structurally - the circle leading it is a kind of control room, like the main hall of the Queequeg, or a head.
I shouldn't worry about the Great Unknown being an embodiment of death. You might want to disregard that completely if you think the series shouldn't entertain such whimsy in a world otherwise free of magic and incarnate symbolism, but if it is death... well, so long as a symbolically-accurate escape route can be construed for those taken by it, they can come back, e.g. since reports of one's death crop so often and so inaccurately in the aSoUE world, it wouldn't be wrong for any of the characters to make a mysterious return, having merely had a brush with death. Even if they don't come back, those taken might not be any worse off; you might think of death as an awful mouth swallowing you up, or you might think of it as a rescue.
I agree that Olaf's scared of it probably because he doesn't know what it is or because he doesn't understand it; that's why everyone's scared, either of death or mysterious enormous undersea shapes, although there's some who'd charge recklessly off after either, or make that choice if there didn't seem any other hope left.
"The Great Unknown" is a euphemism for Death. Therefore:
1) The Great Unknown in ASOUE indicates death, i.e. Captain Widdershins, Phil, the Quagmires and Fiona were all killed when they were taken on board TGU. OR 2) The Great Unknown cannot be escaped once you get on it, but boarding it is the only way to find out the exact nature of it, otherwise we can only guess at it.
I thought it was a good idea to not let every secret be told, considering Captain Widdershins kept saying how there are secrets no child should know (the books are aimed toward children), and while Snicket never really stated his opinion regarding children knowing every secret, he obviously did state his opinion regarding everyone knowing every secret.
The Great Unknown is just what it says. Like he said, the story never ends, and so it is impossible to know every secret, or every fact.
Near the end of The End there is a passage where the Great Unknown (capitalised, meaning the underwater being) is linked with the great unknown (not capitalised, meaning, apparently, death); the story of the Great Unknown helps the Baudelaires to recognise that their parents have indeed gone for ever. So while the Great Unknown cannot literally be death, it does seem to be a symbol of death. I think cwm's point 2) is absolutely right; the Quagmires etc. may not literally be dead, but what happens to them is like death, both in that one can't return from it ('dead men rise up never') and that we can't know from outside what it is like.
Age: Indeterminate (prematurely aged by a life of villainy).
Post by hieitouyaicedemon on Jan 19, 2009 13:07:06 GMT -5
I'm with Hermes. I always thought that the Great Unknown was a metaphor for death. Its form of a question mark on everything it appears in, the absolute disappearance of everyone who meets it...
It's hard to make my point without just repeating everything Hermes says. I just have to say I agree with him - that the Quagmires are gone for good, and we will never know where.
Of course, that won't stop us from writing fanfics, will it? ;D
As a note, the Great Unknown is similar to the veil in Harry Potter (the one that killed Sirius - SOB!) While it's commonly accepted in the HP fandom that the Veil is literally the pathway to death, the fact that we never see beyond it, and other characters naturally know Sirius is never coming back (Lupin pulls Harry back with the words "He can't come back. He's gone.") show a strong similarity to Kit and Widdershins's aversion to the Great Unknown. While I don't know if Lemony ever read HP, it's possible it's a case of great minds think alike.