The Slippery Slope

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For the expression, see Slippery slope. For the film, see Slippery Slope.
The Slippery Slope (by Lemony Snicket)
Slipperyslope.jpg
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 23, 2003
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 337
ISBN 0-06-441013-7
OCLC 52602720
Fic 22
LC Class PZ7.S6795 Sl 2003
Preceded by The Carnivorous Carnival
Followed by The Grim Grotto

The Slippery Slope is the tenth novel in the children's novel series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.

Plot Summary[edit]

The book starts where The Carnivorous Carnival left off. Klaus Baudelaire and Violet are rolling down a steep mountainside in an out-of control caravan, while Sunny Baudelaire is held captive by Count Olaf and Count Olaf's associates/henchmen. Violet devises a brake for the caravan by using the hammocks as a drag chute and spreading sticky foods on the wheels. The two siblings travel up the mountain, discovering that vicious Snow Gnats have followed them. They take shelter from the insects in a cave, discovering that it is occupied by a troupe of Snow Scouts. Carmelita Spats, the children's rival from The Austere Academy, is one of the Snow Scouts, along with her uncle Bruce ( the man who collected Uncle Monty's reptiles and happens to be Carmelita's uncle) and a boy wearing a sweater, who seems to possess knowledge of V.F.D. Bruce and the snow scouts, except for Carmelita, welcomes the Baudelaires to stay with them. During the night, the boy in the sweater talks to them and leads them up the natural chimney (also known as the Vertical Flame Diversion) to the V.F.D. headquarters.

Meanwhile, Olaf, his sidekicks, and Sunny are on the peak of Mount Fraught, the tallest mountain in the region. The adults are cruel to Sunny (though the two white-faced women shows her some sympathy and appreciation), forcing her to sleep in a casserole dish and cook them breakfast the next morning, which she impressively accomplishes despite the lack of ingredients. Olaf insists that what she has prepared is disgusting and orders the Hook-Handed Man to fetch salmon from the nearby stream. Two people, a woman with hair but no beard and a man with a beard but no hair arrive, and announce that they have successfully burned down the V.F.D. headquarters. They also give Count Olaf the first twelve pages of the Snicket File. The man gives Esmé a green cigarette which is actually a Verdant Flammable Device, a device used by V.F.D. to signal in emergencies by lighting it on fire and sending green smoke into the air. Esmé immediately says that they are very "in". Sunny notices Esmé Squalor's Verdant Flammable Device and uses one to signal her siblings under the pretext of smoking the just-caught salmon for Olaf and his evil associates.

Violet, Klaus and the boy come to the V.F.D. headquarters and find it has burnt down. The boy reveals himself to be Quigley Quagmire, whom the children believed to be dead. Violet, Klaus, and Quigley see, rising from the cliff, the plume of green smoke being emitted from Sunny's Verdant Flammable Device. Violet invents an ice-climbing device from a ukulele and forks, which Quigley and she use to climb the mountain, while Klaus stays at the headquarters to see if there are any clues or evidence that can be used to find more about V.F.D., who burned it down, etc. At one point, Violet and Quigley stop for a rest and Snicket refuses to reveal what happens between the two, commenting that Violet and Quigley have been deprived of privacy. It is obvious after this point that the two have fallen in love, and many references are made to their romantic attachment. When the two reach the top of the mountain, they immediately spot Olaf, his henchmen, and Sunny, Violet introduces Sunny to Quigley, and wants Sunny to return with them. But, Sunny refuses, telling her sister that she can spy on Olaf and learn useful information. Violet reluctantly agrees after Sunny herself claims, "I'm not a baby."

Violet and Quigley travel down the mountain again. Fortunately, Klaus has figured out a lot about V.F.D. including the fact that one of their unnamed allies managed to throw the very important sugar bowl out of the headquarter's window and into the river, and hatches a plan to lure Esmé to them and use her to bait Olaf into giving Sunny back. They dig a pit and light a Verdant Flammable Device next to it. Esmé sees some green smoke at the bottom of the slope. She goes down it, thinking the smoke is coming from the "in" cigarettes. The children realize that two wrongs don't equal a right and that there is a better way to rescue Sunny than kidnapping Esmé. When she reaches the bottom, she runs into three masked strangers (the Baudelaires and Quigley), and they help her climb back up the slope, hoping to somehow force Count Olaf to give up Sunny.

Claiming to be Volunteers, the three demand Sunny's return. Olaf refuses, until Violet pretends to know the location of a missing sugar bowl (which is mysteriously important to Olaf and his group). Olaf barters for the dish, but the Snow Scouts reach the peak. Klaus, Violet, and Quigley take off their masks to convince the scouts to run. The scouts, apart from Carmelita Spats, and several of Count Olaf's associates are caught in a net in a plot to recruit the children to Count Olaf's troupe, burn their houses, and take their family's fortunes. Olaf orders the two white faced women to grab Sunny and throw her off the mountain, but they leave in protest and quit working for Olaf. As they leave, they say that one of their siblings was killed when their house burned down. Carmelita is convinced to join Olaf and Esmé in their evil schemes, as their "daughter". Olaf also reveals that it was he who tricked Bruce into confiscating Montgomery's reptiles when he died. The Snow Scouts are then taken by the Olaf's associates using a batch of trained eagles, and since Bruce grabs the net, he is taken as well. The Baudelaires and Quigley grab a toboggan and slide down the slope, but when they reach the bottom, the frozen waterfall shatters. In the ensuing flood, the Baudelaire siblings and Quigley Quagmire are separated. Quigley and Violet call desperately for each other, and Quigley tries to tell them to meet him somewhere, but cannot be heard over the rush of the running water.

Characters[edit]

Violet, Klaus, Sunny and Count Olaf return in this book, as in all previous books. Esme Squalor, Carmelita Spats, the hook-handed man, Hugo, Colette and Kevin all participate in this book as well. The book marks the introductions of the man with a beard but no hair and the woman with hair but no beard, the final appearances of the two powder-faced women and Bruce and the only appearance of Quigley Quagmire.

Foreshadowing[edit]

There is a batch of fungus on a rock nearby to the Baudelaire's, foreshadowing The Grim Grotto.

Cultural references & literary allusions[edit]

  • The mechanical instructor C. M. Kornbluth is named after the science fiction writer Cyril M. Kornbluth.
  • There is a reference to Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, when Sunny utters "Godot". The literal translation provided by Snicket is "We don't know where to go, and we don't know how to get there.", much like the central plot in Waiting for Godot where the characters are unaware of the time that Godot will arrive.
  • There is a reference to Monty Python's Flying Circus, specifically to the Self Defence Against Fresh Fruit sketch, in which John Cleese is telling his class about how to defend themselves from someone armed with a "piece of fresh fruit", throughout which, a student requests to learn how to defend themselves from someone armed with a "pointed stick." This is referenced in The Slippery Slope when Violet, Klaus and Quigley search the refrigerator in order to find out if there is anything important. Lemony says that a fridge would hold a bunch of strawberries, which would be important if a man said "If you don't give me a bunch of strawberries right now, I'm going to poke you with this large pointed stick."
  • Violet uses a Sumac knot when slowing the caravan, and states that she named the knot after a singer she likes. It is likely to be a reference to Peruvian singer Yma Sumac.
  • As Violet, Klaus, and Quigley are climbing up the Vertical Flame Diversion, Snicket mentions that the pipes once found there were removed by a man he knew in order to build a submarine. This may be a reference to the next book in the series The Grim Grotto, in which the children reside in a submarine described as being made of different pipes.
  • When the Baudelaires and Quigley are trying to find a way to escape from the top of Mount Fraught, Sunny says "Rosebud", prompting them to use the toboggan. This is a reference to the movie Citizen Kane. "Rosebud" is the first and last word in the movie, and the name of a sled that Kane owned when he was a child.
  • At one point, Sunny uses the word "Busheney", which in the story means an evil, despicable man. The word is a reference to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
  • On several occasions, Sunny uses the term "Matahari" to refer to her spying on Count Olaf and his troupe. Mata Hari was a Dutch spy during World War I.
  • At one point, Sunny uses the word "Babganoush", which literally means,"I concocted an escape plan with the eggplant that turned out to be even handier than I thought." This is a reference to the Arabic dish Baba Ghanoush, in which eggplant is one of the ingredients.

Translations[edit]

See also[edit]