The Miserable Mill begins to change the recipe of these stories. No longer is it required for the children to live with a relative who dies by the end of the book (though someone seems to always die). It was getting a bit tiresome to always have a trail of corpses following behind the children. And, it was becoming a bit laughable. How many relatives can be killed in the series? Do the Baudelaire children have enough relatives that they have never met to satisfy the demands of one dead relative per title?
Anyway, I digress; in this book the children are sent to live with “Sir” who runs the Lucky Smells Lumber Mill. “Sir,” as he is called because no one can pronounce his name, places the children in the dormitory to work with the other mill workers. The three children must forgo breakfast, receive bubblegum for lunch, and a casserole for dinner. All day long, they perform exhausting work that only adults should do. For example, eighteen month old Sunny must strip bark from the trees with her four sharp teeth. To make matters more deplorable, the employees are paid in coupons….
Additionally, the children perk up when they hear that the Lucky Smells Lumber Mill has a library. In this series, a library is always present and represents the ray of hope for the children. Snicket tries to imply that education will be the answer to many or most of life’s problems. As a Christian, I would have to qualify that. Christ is the answer to all problems in life; and it is not just any knowledge of Christ, but an accurate knowledge that makes the difference. General knowledge is critical in life (one of the reasons for this web site is to promote learning), but general learning is always secondary to an accurate knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, for the Baudelaires, the library only contains three books: a history of the town, a history of the mill, and an advanced opthalmologic text. Not much to work with.
Count Olaf does not make much of an appearance in this book. Rather, the evil is performed by the wicked Dr. Orwell – the local eye doctor who loves to hypnotize people. And of course, Dr. Orwell operates her optometry office from a building that looks like the eye tattooed on Olaf’s ankle. As usual, the children escape the clutches of Olaf through reading and learning (and a bit of luck). This story is a bit more absurd than the first three especially when Sunny begins sword fighting with her teeth. Between a diabolical optometrist, a rude foreman, an eternal optimist, and a cruel manager, there are few happy moments in Violet, Klause and Sunny’s lives in this story. But somehow, you enjoy this book all the same. As always, if you haven’t read this series yet, start reading. They don’t take long and are quite delightful.