The Reptile Room

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The Reptile Room USA.PNG
Author Lemony Snicket (pen name of Daniel Handler)
Illustrator Brett Helquist
Cover artist Brett Helquist
Country United States
Language English
Series A Series of Unfortunate Events
Genre Gothic fiction
Absurdist fiction
Steampunk
Mystery
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
September 30, 1999
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 190
ISBN ISBN 0-06-440767-5 (first edition, hardback)
OCLC 41086597
Fic 21
LC Class PZ7.S6795 Re 1999
Preceded by The Bad Beginning
Followed by The Wide Window

The Reptile Room is the second novel of the children's novel series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It was later released in paperback under the title The Reptile Room; or, Murder! 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[edit]

After their guardian Count Olaf tries to steal their fortune, the three Baudelaire children are taken by Mr. Poe to their new guardian, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, who lives on Lousy Lane, which smells like horseradish. 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 invites the children in for coconut cream cake. He is much friendlier than Count Olaf, and gives the children free rein in the house. Each of the children can have their own room.Uncle 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 quite 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 Uncle 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.

When Stephano, the new assistant, arrives, the children realize that he is Count Olaf in disguise. They try to warn Uncle Monty, but Stephano foils their 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. Stephano threatens the children privately later, hinting at a plot he has for them when they reach Peru. They tell him that Monty won't let him go with them and Stephano becomes furious. On the day they are to leave for Peru, they discover Monty's dead body in the Reptile Room. He has two tiny puncture holes under his left eye, and Stephano claims that he has been bitten by a snake.

Stephano 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, Stephano's car crashes into that of Mr. Poe. They return to the house, where Poe and Stephano discuss what to do with the children. The Baudelaires try to prove that it was Stephano who killed Monty.

Meanwhile, the children realize that they'll need evidence to expose Stephano'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 Stephano's suitcase. Stephano 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 Stephano 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. However, Olaf gets away before he is arrested.

Soon, the Baudelaires will be assigned to yet another guardian. They watch as Monty's reptile collection is taken away in a car driven by a man named Bruce. They wave farewell to the snakes as they are driven away in another car to meet their new caretaker, Aunt Josephine.

Foreshadowing[edit]

  • The horseradish apples that appear in the last book of the series, The End, are alluded to on the first page. The road the Baudelaires are driving along runs through a field filled with apple trees, and the author then states that the entire area smells of horseradish because of a horseradish factory nearby. The smell of horseradish is then referred to several times in the novel.
  • On the last picture, there is a man wearing a Lachrymose Leeches sports jersey, foreshadowing The Wide Window.

Cultural references and literary allusions[edit]

  • One of the snakes in the Reptile Room is a Virginian Wolfsnake, a 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 (a person who studies reptiles), 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 likely reference to Agatha Christie's 1926 novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
  • In the UK version of the cover, Klaus and Violet are not seen, and Uncle Monty is seen smiling rather than being frightened.

Special Editions[edit]

The Reptile Room; or, Murder![edit]

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.[1] It was released on May 8, 2007.[2] 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.[3][4]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]