How would this match then be judged? Directly pitting your abilities against one another is a bit different to submitting to the judgement of a subjective authority, which might have been done without the challenge.
Are you suggesting we complete the challenge without a judge? Hm. I'm not quite sure how that would work?
Last Edit: Jun 11, 2012 15:21:02 GMT -5 by Sherry Ann
Post by Sherry Ann on Jun 11, 2012 19:36:37 GMT -5
We've agreed on a topic, I take it, Brunch? It's now a matter of determining the process through which the results would be judged. Although given the information you've provided about scoring, Tragedy, perhaps it's best to leave that part to the higher authorities.
Yes, we agreed on writing a theory for Conflicting Conjectures. How that can be judged, I'm not sure, but as Sherry-Ann said we'll leave it to be. I also have a question: Can it be an essay, but with points then expanded on as theories?
What I had in mind lends itself better to an essay, too. I would say - and you can make a case otherwise, of course - that so long as it's something that would fit into the CC board category, it's fine. Edit: "Board category"?
Last Edit: Jun 12, 2012 5:54:45 GMT -5 by Sherry Ann
Dark castles. Hidden passageways. Eerie winds. Distant shadows. Do these sound familiar? For the past two decades, the gothic genre has filtered into not only film and music, but also into many of the most esteemed pieces of literature. Children’s literature, more specifically, has proved itself particularly adaptable to the gothic sensibility. Children’s need for terror, their fascination with morbidity, and the adventurous spirit in which the gothic is written all contribute to the appeal this genre has to children. In The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket explores various gothic archetypes, plot techniques, and settings that shape the narrative in a unique way. But how gothic, exactly, is Snicket’s first novel? And how effectively are gothic influences integrated in the text?
Consider first the packaging of the book itself: several features of the novel’s corporeal presentation are highly reminiscent of the Victorian era. Deckle-edged paper gives the document an antiquated feel, while the paper-over-board format creates a sense of exoticism. This hybrid look is especially effective in bookstores, as it encourages patrons to explore the unusual appearance, leading the browsers to the book’s inner matter. The interior illustrations – namely the frontispiece, centerpiece, and end piece – also contribute to the atmosphere of the novel through dark shading and doorway-esque framing. The “dated” look the publishers give the series adds to its aura of antiquity and values of erudition. That is to say, the book is given a sophisticated, gothic exterior, and the story’s content does not thwart this impression. Helquist’s cover illustration is also quite gothic in manner: analogize the Baudelaires’ despondent expressions with Olaf’s silhouette, looming over the children. The predominant color surrounding Olaf is blue, an appropriate choice given the children’s miserable time with the antagonist and his home. Beyond the Baudelaires is the world the children leave behind: the colors are warm and the shapes simplistic, suggesting that while life outside their upcoming residence may not be ideal, it is certainly more appealing than the misfortune the children are soon to face.
Presentation aside, gothic mannerisms are additionally employed through Snicket’s frequent pleas for readers to ignore – or even destroy – the book immediately. The novel’s success is a clear indication his appeals are neglected. Recall the opening line of The Bad Beginning: “If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book” (1). However, the ending of Snicket’s first volume seems to hinge not on the presence of misfortune, but rather on the absence of its inverse. The Baudelaires aren’t admitted access to Justice Strauss’ favorable home, Olaf isn’t captured by the authorities, and there is no promise of hope for the children. Nothing is actively pursuing the protagonists; the darkness lies only in the intangible future. The line continues, “In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle.” This, too, is in the gothic spirit. Gothic novels are constantly occupied with either terror (the threat of disaster) or horror (the disaster in progress). The book’s Dear Reader enacts the same principle. The extract is worded as such to give the work a “forbidden” element, pulling readers in by warding them off. Moreover, the message is intensely evocative of the “gothic counterfeit” trope, or a lighthearted fakery on the realism of a work. The fact Handler’s compositions are written under a pen name, as well as the incorporations of mock-documents in The Unauthorized Autobiography and the epistolary Beatrice Letters support the idea that A Series of Unfortunate Events was written with the gothic counterfeit in mind. Immediately, A Series of Unfortunate Events establishes its identity as a series more intellectual than its predecessors, and certainly darker.
If the gothic “hooks” are what pull readers in, the gothic promise fulfilled is what keeps the readers reading. Snicket often satirizes and exploits conventions used in the gothic, a theme that affects the text from the very first scene at Briny Beach. The weather is described as “gray and cloudy,” foreshadowing the news to soon befall the oblivious orphans (2). In the same scene, fog obscures a figure, instilling a sense of suspense in the narrative. Klaus notes, “It only seems scary … because of all the mist” (6). Indeed, vapor is often used to give gothic novels a chilling feel. Take the following passage from Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, in which fog is employed as an element to spawn a sense of dread in the reader:
Coldly played the light upon the damp walls, whose dew-stained surface gave back a feeble reflection. A thick and pestilential fog clouded the height of the vaulted dungeon. As Lorenzo advanced, He felt a piercing chillness spread itself through his veins. The frequent groans still engaged him to move forward.
Consider, too, the cemetery-esque nature of the children’s visit to their destroyed home. Remnants of the Baudelaires’ old lives protrude from the ashes in the form of a grand piano, window seat, and brandy bottle (12-13). All three objects recall the dead to the children, and certainly the mansion itself broods with lifelessness. However, just as smog and darkness foretell tribulations, so true is the converse. Klaus’s hopes rise “along with the sun” when he discovers Olaf’s plot to marry Violet and secure the Baudelaire fortune for himself (95). Of course, Klaus’s optimisms are demolished when he finds Olaf has already thought ahead to put Sunny in a birdcage and use her predicament as blackmail, but this discovery only serves to further the perception that, no matter how hard the heroes work, the Baudelaires’ circumstances will never improve. Snicket’s settings are further developed when he juxtaposes Strauss’ pleasant home to Olaf’s decrepit one. The description, which has the building “sagged to the side,” with “bricks stained with soot and grime,” and a mere “two small windows” foreshadows horror and dismay (20-21). Once again, the negative depiction of Olaf’s home sets the stage for the Baudelaires’ experiences, as when it comes to Snicket’s settings, first impressions are often entirely correct. Furthermore, this portrayal is highly reminiscent of gothic architecture. Hanging towers, turrets, and trapdoors often feature as hiding places for gothic characters, and indeed Olaf is known to seclude to his tower for much of the day. The general decay of the house embodies the woe from which the Baudelaires suffer, confining the children to a physical and psychological darkness. While in classic gothic novels claustrophobia is often executed with literal chaining, imprisonment, or other forms of physical confinement, The Bad Beginning employs claustrophobic dread by confining the orphans to a single bedroom, and later the tower room, despite the house’s large interior.
In addition to gothic conventions tweaked for younger audiences, many of Snicket’s characters are apparently drawn from the archetypal gothic personality. That Snicket himself is an unreliable narrator – a characteristic found in such works as Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw – is an immediate indication of archetypes’ presence in the series. Although Snicket presents his work as a well-researched account of the lives of three unfortunate orphans, the fact he includes himself as a character in the work at all implies some aspects of the story may be subject to bias. Snicket’s villain is clearly also influenced by gothic sensibilities. Olaf is said to disappear during the day only to reappear at night, a depiction not entirely unlike Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Indeed, like Dracula, Olaf is repulsed by the Baudelaires’ Pasta Puttanesca, a recipe containing garlic. He yearns instead for bloody roast beef, and in fact, by the time the children serve the meal, the Puttanesca sauce is likened to a “vat of blood” (51). In the true gothic manner, Olaf lusts after the virginal maiden, a phrase which here means “Violet Baudelaire.” Frequently throughout the text Violet is preyed upon by Olaf and other members in the acting troupe through unseemly touch and menacing words. Violet, as the virtuous heroine, is coerced into marriage by the evil count. This sacred act is often sullied in gothic literature, and so it is here with Al Funcoot’s production of The Marvelous Marriage, or, as Klaus perhaps puts it more accurately, The Menacing Marriage (97). As the novel is geared toward children, the sexual undertones of Olaf’s aims are concealed beneath his desire for the Baudelaire fortune. Nonetheless, just as marriage is doomed from the start in Horace Walpole’s Castle of Ontranto, so it is doomed here by the virtuous heroine’s hand. Her left hand, more specifically, as Violet thwarts Olaf’s ambitions by signing the legal marriage document in her non-dominant hand. Violet further exercises her ability to save the day after one of Olaf’s henchmen switch off the lighting in the theater. The simile Snicket uses to describe Violet is perhaps one of the few nods to supernaturalism readers find in the book: “In the darkness, Violet looked like a ghost, her white wedding gown moving slowly across the stage” (157). This is a twist on gothic pretenses in that apparitions are typically introduced to incite fear; here, the apparition ends fear. Violet’s other main attempt to play the courageous protagonist is in her efforts to rescue Sunny. Like Klaus discovering Olaf’s plan, Violet works by night, and the backdrop provides interesting challenges for the heroine. For instance, the night is still but with a slight breeze, and Snicket notes Violet must be silent so as not to attract attention (119). In the traditional gothic novel, wind is often used to suggest danger or peril, and indeed Violet almost gives up entirely when she imagines herself “swinging in the breeze, clinging to a rope made of ugly clothing.” Violet perseveres, though her efforts are for naught. Still, the strength the heroine exhibits remains an important facet of her character inherent in the gothic.
How well, then, is the gothic integrated into The Bad Beginning? Given the age group for which the novel is designed, it appears Snicket successfully merges gothic sensibility with juvenile desires. The settings, though dark, are intriguing, and the conventions well-incorporated. The characters, while extremely unlucky, are nonetheless believable and relatable. Although later novels in A Series of Unfortunate Events depart somewhat from the gothic tradition, The Bad Beginning starts the series off in an aberrant – the word “aberrant” here means “unique, and causing intrigue among readers” – direction.
With October looming ever nearer, excitement is definitely stating to escalate, as we are on the cusp of the new series. Lemony Snicket, the enigmatic narrator is revealing key events in his childhood, but what can we already glean from the text of A Series of Unfortunate Events, it’s supplementary materials and the newly released first and second chapters of All the Wrong Questions?
We know from The Little Snicket Lad that he was born on a cattle farm, although the text clearly corrects this to a dairy, aptly named Valorous Farms Dairy. His father was named Jacob and his mother is the unnamed Mrs. Snicket. He had two older siblings, Jacques and Kit Snicket. At Valorous Farms Dairy, the family is mentioned to have cheese maker associates, which remain closely connected to the entire Snicket family. The name of the dairy confirms it was a place associated with VFD, and that both Snicket Parents were closely working with the Cheese makers before the time of Lemony Snicket’s birth. Due to this evidence his parents can be confirmed to be VFD members, although whether they were recruited into the organisation or joined freely before the Schism is unknown. The Schism began when Kit Snicket was four, and so happened when Lemony was unborn or a young toddler. After the Schism VFD very much takes place in families, and has almost become tradition. “This is entirely accurate, much to my mother’s dismay, who always wished she had delayed her investigation one more day,” does show that although Mrs. Snicket was clearly involved in VFD activities, she may have resented her son’s departure somewhat. The fact that Lemony knows his mother always wished she’d had time to say goodbye, may mean that he was allowed to and frequently wrote letters home to her, as the line suggests correspondence, although indirect, on a regular basis.
If Mrs. Snicket was absent on the day of her son’s taking, what then was Mr.Snicket doing? It is unlikely that Jacob was away as well, as it seems improbable that a young child would be left at home alone, despite being reasonably intelligent. Jacob was involved in VFD proceedings too, although perhaps more indirectly. Mrs Snicket and himself may also have taken it in turns to watch over their children. Judging by the Snicket’s actions, the Schism may have been in less of a dire situation for the Volunteers than during the timeframe in which A Series of Unfortunate Events takes place in, as the Snicket’s appear not to have tried to shelter the children much from VFD goings on, although they may have resented it. In A Series of Unfortunate Events the Baudelaire parents try desperately to shield their children from anything related to VFD, and do a successful job. It is likely that during the period when the Baudelaires were born the Schism was at its peak, thus motivating their parents to give their children a normal childhood.
Lemony may have been “taken” into VFD when he was around five years old, or sometime near is fifth birthday, as Dewey Denouement mentions in The Penultimate Peril that he and his brother’s were taken on their fifth Birthdays. However in the folk ballad, The Little Snicket Lad, it is implied that his siblings were taken at the same time as him, although they are clearly older than him. VFD may have tried to recruit all siblings at once, meaning less exposure for a secret organisation.
Even though it is seen as tradition for VFD membership to run in families, there is still indication that new members can join, In Chapter twelve of The Unauthorised Autobiography there are detailed instructions on using code with your parents in order to join VFD. VFD devised this scheme so that anyone could still join, but the organisation would still be able to expand its membership. We also learn from the same volume, that VFD still goes about observing children who show worthy skills of the VFD cause and noble actions, although later on around the time of A Series of Unfortunate Events there is never any mention of the Quagmies or Baudelaires being watched or taken.
Lemony was taken in the usual way- he was dragged from his ankles and driven away. Assuming from the evidence in The Penultimate Peril that Lemony was taken at five years old, we can also assume that he begun his formal VFD training around the same age.
Much of Lemony’s VFD training is unknown. He first met the future Duchess of Winnipeg, R, in the VFD infirmary where they “told stories to distract themselves from the pain in their ankles.” The pain in their ankles may from being taken by them, meaning that they would’ve become acquainted with each other early on.
In The Unauthorised Autobiography we are given a VFD meeting transcript, confirmed to have taken place when Lemony was VFD neophyte. We straight away identify “L” as Lemony from his asking, “What is the matter with your hand?” Lemony is addressed by his superiors: “As you get older these expressions will be easier to understand.” During the meeting R says “I agree. I’m nine years old…” She then goes on to say she is concerned for VFD’s younger members. This R is the Duchess of Winnipeg, and if she is nine Lemony has to be around the same age. At this age there is also no mention of Beatrice or even a “B” present during the transcript.
The transcript also reveals that, as a neophyte, Lemony was subjected to monthly testing, recapping on important VFD information like the black jeep secret, Sugar bowl secret and Seabald code. This not only tells us about Lemony’s particular education, but also about how VFD went about it. Parents possibly encouraged their children to read and write from an early age, as all VFD members display a reasonable amount of intelligence. In the earlier years it seems as though VFD was most concerned with making sure the neophytes knew every detail about how the organisation operated, from codes to volunteer positions. Later on it is revealed in The Beatrice Letters that around age eleven volunteers in training begin their education in subjects they are interested in such as Rhetoric, codes and Drama. The subjects they studied were key as to their VFD positions they were to occupy in later years.
However, it wasn’t until Lemony was eleven years old that he began his relationship with Beatrice. It is likely that Lemony was familiar with her name and face, but rarely talked to her. He states opening in his note to her “You have always looked like an interesting person and I enjoyed very much your oral report on the history of the sonnet.” Lemony may have attended English class with her based on the fact that he was familiar with her report.
Details of their first official meeting are unknown, but it is assumed it went successfully as Lemony and Beatrice met for Root Beer floats many times afterward and were friends throughout the rest of their training in the VFD school.
Lemony took code class, although it is unknown whether this class is optional or not. At this point Lemony was still acquainted with R and also knew O, who can only be Olaf, due to the reference of him being one-eyebrowed. Lemony has an immediate dislike and mistrust of Olaf, even being young; probably because of an incident “with a bottle of ink and a root beer float” that Olaf is implied to be responsible for.
Lemony was also on a climbing excursion to the mountains, which rules out the possibility of his VFD training to have taken place in the headquarters mentioned in The Penultimate Peril. It is more than likely that this is was one of many excursions he went on, VFD taking the chance to familiarise it’s students with travelling from place to place. The excursions could’ve been a key opportunity for VFD to teach the students about the organisations History. Lemony joined Beatrice for a few hours cave exploration- which could indicate that they learned about the Volunteer Feline Detectives that used to live in them. It is also likely, and widely speculated upon that this was the famous trip where Beatrice was at some point picked up by an eagle, mentioned by Lemony in The Miserable Mill and Jerome in The Ersatz Elevator. Jerome would’ve had to be present or witnessed the event for this to be the case. Due to his ignorance in the sixth book, it is highly unlikely he trained as a VFD member along with R, Lemony and Beatrice.
Recently Chapters one and two of All the Wrong Questions, Lemony’s upcoming new series were recently made available to us, giving away yet more information about Lemony’s mysterious childhood.
Lemony was supposed to be taking a train somewhere, and to the train station he was accompanied by two individuals posing as his parents. Lemony was very aware that these people were of no relation to him, but his “parents” do not know. Why they are pretending to be Lemony’s parents is unclear, although they were planning to take him “someplace else that you do not want to be in” according to Lemony’s escort, S.Theodora Markson.
Lemony graduated just before he was thirteen, an unusual age, but common for all VFD members, as is indicated by Lemony’s references to his female friend, who has also recently graduated and is off on an apprenticeship like himself. In the transcript in The Unauthorised Autobiography it is explained that once graduated VFD members are assigned to strangers and scattered across the globe to perform various tasks, before returning and completing the final phase during their training.
Lemony’s female friend he refers to frequently is believed to be Beatrice, based on the reference to a bat shaped tape measure, connected to Beatrice as she was a “Baticeer.”
Young Lemony is similar to his older self. It is possible he picked up the habit of using the phrase “a word which here means…” from S.Theodora Markson as she uses it in conversation with him.
Thirteen year old Lemony displays all qualities necessary for a VFD member; he is observant and inquisitive, irritating Theodora.
Lemony seems blissfully unaware of the Schism: it may be because he does not yet know of it, or does not yet know the destruction it had caused among VFD members. There are also no references to his mother, father of siblings so they may have been separated for sometime.
Lemony had his final VFD training earlier than normal, as revealed in the letter to him from Jacques. It contains a packet of information, detailing VFD disguise. The reason for this could be that the Schism has become even worse, meaning VFD needs as many volunteers as it can get, so therefore Lemony had to complete training early.
After he had completed training, Lemony went on to work as assistant obituary spell-checker at The Daily Punctilio. He was working their as a VFD agent, although working in such a low position that he started out as would provide little opportunities to expose items of importance to the general public. As stated in Lemony’s letter to Beatrice (at which point they were romantically involved) R became the duchess of Winnipeg when her mother passed away. This caused a reshuffle at the Punctilio offices, with Jacques moved to financial times, Geraldine moved to fashion editor and Lemony became a theatre critic. Lemony critiqued the play “The World is Quiet Here.” The title had been changed by Olaf and Esme and instead of Beatrice playing the leading role, Esme was. Lemony wrote about this, and his ill opinion of Esme eventually led to him being fired from the paper.
At this point Lemony and Beatrice were both engaged, after Lemony proposed to her over a midnight root beer float. It is likely they were separated for a long time, during which The Daily Punctilio spread rumours about him and blamed him for a series of crimes he did not commit. This led Beatrice to break off her engagement, returning the ring and writing him a two hundred page book stating why she could not marry him.
However, as mentioned in the books, Lemony and Beatrice did meet again at least once more. Fifteen years later, Lemony delivered a warning to Beatrice about Count Olaf, although it is not revealed what the warning was about. Beatrice perished in the fire that destroyed the Baudelaire mansion, and Lemony, embarked on a journey to retrace the steps of her orphaned children.
If I am called upon, then certainly, I will judge this one. I will accede to the request to wait for Sherry Ann to get back, however, in case there is any need for closing thoughts or further questions. After all, there is more to any game than merely its outcome.
I will base my judgement on two criteria: One will be how well the two essays compare against one another from a perspective of what will be useful for Antagonistic Affairs, and the other will be how well the two contestants played against each other as part of their Game. Since it occurred chronologically earlier, I will begin with the latter.
Both agents begin passively enough, looking to one another for ideas. While this shows receptiveness to outside expertise, not to mention courteousness, I'm not sure it properly represents the individual innovation needed to reform Antagonistic Affairs. Past this stage, Sherry Ann is the better at coming up with ideas, and her initial ideas are web-based rather than reality-based, which is favourable; however, Bee is the first to propose 667-related challenges which would theoretically improve the site.
Sherry Ann then takes the initiative in proposing the ultimately victorious contest, one reliant, appropriately, on documentation and synthesis of available resources, and she defends that idea, although Bee's point is pertinent in that it's not directly relevant to the category in question. Bee loses a point, however, for misspelling the name of the category. Similarly, while stalling and negotiation occurs, Bee eventually submits to Sherry Ann's idea.
As a game, therefore, Sherry Ann leads. Now, onto the second judging phase.
The two essays in themselves follow different tacks. Sherry Ann investigates gothic influence in ASoUE; Bee reviews the available information about Snicket's life. Both of these efforts are highly relevant to Antagonistic Affairs as they require a mastery of their sources and an ability to synthesise numerous sources of data. Neither is entirely without flaws, but both are impressive, with Sherry Ann's being perhaps the more professional, partly due to greater experience. We might also characterise Sherry Ann's as outward-looking, while Bee's is inward-looking. Neither of these modes is superior or inferior to the other; it merely helps to characterise our contestants better as separate individuals. I feel that Sherry Ann's is bringing more that is new to the table, though - something that a reader is less likely to be already aware of. This helps to put her ahead.
So, combining the results of the two criteria, it's clear that SHERRY ANN is the overall winner, ahead of BEE, who also made an impressive effort. Well done to the pair of you.
Thank you for judging, Dante, and congratulations anyway, Bee, for putting together a really rather quite impressive timeline. I hope we'll each be able to post these in BBooks now to benefit from the opinions of others besides participants in the Games.