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The Reptile

The Reptile Room

The Reptile Room is a children's novel and the second of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Having just escaped from the greedy and evil Count Olaf in the first book, the Baudelaire children are now taken to live with another relative, Dr. Montgomery. While the children find Dr. Montgomery to be a kind herpetologist, Count Olaf's final threat in the previous book continues to throw a shadow over their future.

Plot summary

The second tale of the orphans begins with the children bumping down Lousy Lane in Mr. Poe's cramped car, headed to the home of their new guardian, Dr. Montgomery, a herpetologist. According to Mr. Poe, Dr. Montgomery is the Baudelaire's "late father's cousin's wife's brother".

Dr. Montgomery, or Uncle Monty as he prefers to be called, is a short, chubby man with a round red face. He is much friendlier than their previous guardian, Count Olaf, and gives the children free rein of the house. Monty tells the children that they will be going on an expedition to Peru, once his new assistant, Stephano, arrives. He says that his old assistant, Gustav, had suddenly resigned (Gustav could possibly be Gustav Sebald).

The children are fascinated by the many snakes in the Reptile Room, a giant hall in which Monty's reptile collection is stored. They meet The Incredibly Deadly Viper, which Monty has only recently discovered. The snake's name is a misnomer since it is harmless; Monty intends to use it to play a practical joke on the Herpetologist Society in revenge for their ridiculing his name, Montgomery Montgomery. The three children are each given jobs in the Reptile Room: Violet is given the job of inventing traps for new snakes found in Peru, Klaus is told to read books on snakes to help advise Uncle Monty and Sunny's job is to bite ropes into usable pieces. She also befriends the Incredibly Deadly Viper.

It should be noted that just before the Beaudelaire's open the door in Chapter 3 Stephano is heard saying "I'm not going to give you a tip because you talk too much. Not everybody wants to hear about your new baby, you know." The taxi driver is most likely a V.F.D member in a Taxi Driver Disguise as mentioned in The Unauthorized Autobiography. When Stephano arrives, the children realize that he is Count Olaf in disguise. They try to warn Monty, but Olaf foils these attempts. Eventually, Monty does realize Stephano is evil, but believes Stephano to be an impostor sent to steal the Incredibly Deadly Viper. Monty explains this all to the astonished orphans and tears Stephano's ticket to Peru up, saying that Stephano will not be going on the trip with them. Olaf threatens the children privately later, hinting at some plot he has for them when they reach Peru. They tell him that Monty won't let him go with them and Olaf becomes furious. On the day they are to leave for Peru, they discover Monty's corpse in the Reptile Room. He has two tiny puncture holes under his eye, and Olaf claims that he has been bitten by a snake. This possibly could have been avoided if the Baudelaires hadn't told Olaf that Monty had torn up his ticket.

Olaf still intends to take the children to Peru, where he will more easily find a way to get his hands on their fortune. However, as they are leaving the estate, Olaf's car crashes into that of Mr. Poe. They return to the house, and Poe and Olaf discuss what to do with the children. The Baudelaires try to prove that it was Olaf who killed Monty. Dr. O. Lucafont (an anagram of Count Olaf), arrives and claims that it was the Mamba du Mal that killed Monty (ignoring the orphans' repeated claims that the Mamba du Mal was locked up all night and was still locked up).

Meanwhile, the children realize that they'll need evidence to expose Olaf's scheme. Klaus and Sunny stage a diversion in which the Incredibly Deadly Viper pretends to attack Sunny to allow Violet time to find and open Olaf's suitcase. Olaf blows his cover when he informs Mr. Poe that Sunny is not in danger as the viper is harmless; he had previously claimed he knew nothing about snakes. Violet shows up and presents Mr. Poe with the evidence (among other things, a powder puff and the syringe used to inject snake venom into Monty). Mr. Poe asks Olaf to display his ankle, where the tattoo of an eye should be. However, the eye is not there. The Baudelaires insist that he has covered it with makeup. Mr. Poe wipes the ankle with a handkerchief, revealing the eye. Olaf flees the house as it is discovered that Dr. Lucafont is actually Olaf's henchman, the Hook-Handed Man.

The novel concludes with Uncle Monty's reptile collection being taken away by a man named Bruce, and the Baudelaires being sent to their next home.

Foreshadows

  • It is mentioned that Lousy Lane smells like horseradish. According to The Grim Grotto, the horseradish factory located nearby is a V.F.D. factory, which was used to develop an antidote to Medusoid Mycelium.
  • On the last picture, there is a man wearing a Lachrymose Leeches sports jersey, foreshadowing The Wide Window.
  • The moving man named Bruce near the end reappears as the leader of the Snow Scouts in The Slippery Slope

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Cultural references and literary allusions

  • One of the snakes in the Reptile Room is a Virginian Wolfsnake, a probable reference to the novelist Virginia Woolf. Uncle Monty warns the Baudelaire children never to allow the snake near a typewriter.
  • When Mr. Poe panics during Sunny's staged victimization by The Incredibly Deadly Viper, he calls out a number of names in desperation. The exact quote reads as follows: "Good God! Blessed Allah! Zeus and Hera! Mary and Joseph! Nathaniel Hawthorne!" While the first six names refer to varying religious figures, the last individual, Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a 19th century novelist.
  • Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, the herpetologist (snake studier), may be a reference to Monty Python's Flying Circus.
  • Both the name of the boat to Peru, Prospero, and the name of Count Olaf's disguise, Stephano, are allusions to William Shakespeare's The Tempest.
  • When planning how to prove that Stephano murdered Uncle Monty, Sunny is asked to watch the door and bite anyone that tries to enter the Reptile Room. The full quote reads '"Ackroid!" Sunny said, which probably meant something like "Roger!"' and is a probable reference to Agatha Christie's 1926 novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Special Editions

Murder!

A Series of Unfortunate Events No.2: The Reptile Room or, Murder! is a paperback rerelease of The Reptile Room, designed to mimic Victorian penny dreadfuls. It was released on May 8, 2007. The book features a new full-colour cover, seven new illustrations, and the second part of a serial supplement entitled The Cornucopian Cavalcade, which includes the second part of a 13-part comic by Michael Kupperman entitled The Spoily Brats, an advice column written by Lemony Snicket, and the second part of a story by Stephen Leacock entitled A Psychic Pstory of the Psupernatural, along with other novelty additions .

Cover images

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Translations

  • Russian: "Змеиный Зал", Azbuka, 2003, ISBN 5-352-00361-2
  • Spanish: "La habitación de los reptiles", Montena, 2004, ISBN 0-307-20935-0
  • Czech: "Temné terárium", Egmont, 2001, ISBN 80-7186-619-9

References

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