The Miserable Mill

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The Miserable Mill
The Miserable Mill 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
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
April 15, 2000
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 195
ISBN 0-06-440769-1
Preceded by The Wide Window
Followed by The Austere Academy

The Miserable Mill is the fourth novel of the children's novel series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It was to be released in paperback under the name The Miserable Mill; or, Hypnotism!, but the release was canceled for unknown reasons. In this novel, the Baudelaire orphans live with the owner of Lucky Smells Lumbermill. The book was published on April 15, 2000, by HarperCollins and illustrated by Brett Helquist.

Plot summary[edit]

The Miserable Mill begins with Sunny, Klaus and Violet Baudelaire traveling on a train heading for Paltryville, the location of the children's new home, the Lucky Smells Lumbermill.

Upon arrival, the children learn that they will have to work at the mill, but as part of the deal, their new guardian, Sir (they call him Sir because his name was so long that nobody pronounces it right), will try to keep Count Olaf, their nemesis, away. They meet Sir's more sympathetic partner, Charles, who shows them the library, which contains three books, one about the history of the lumbermill, one about the town constitution, and one donated by Dr. Orwell, the local optometrist, who lives in the eye shaped building.

Klaus breaks his own glasses when he is purposely tripped by the new foreman, Flacutono, and is sent to see Dr. Orwell. When Klaus returns from the optometrist, hours later, he acts very strangely, as if in a trance. The next day in the lumbermill, Flacutono instructs Klaus to operate a stamping machine. Klaus causes an accident by dropping the machine on Phil, an optimistic coworker. Flacutono exclaims that the machine "cost an inordinate amount of money". The other workers ask what the unfamiliar word means and Klaus defines the word. Klaus explains that he doesn't remember what happened between when he broke his glasses and waking up in the mill. Foreman Flacutono trips him again, once again causing his glasses to break. This time though, Violet and Sunny accompany Klaus to Dr. Orwell's office.

Together, they arrive at the eye-shaped building they saw on their arrival to Lucky Smells. Dr. Orwell, seemingly friendly, lets them in, and tells Violet and Sunny to sit in the waiting room. Violet and Sunny wonder about this before realizing that Count Olaf is disguised as Shirley, a receptionist. She also learns that Klaus has been (and is being) hypnotized by Orwell, who is in cahoots with Olaf. They leave with Klaus, who is once again in a trance. When they return to the lumbermill, they find a note instructing them to see Sir. He tells them that if there is another accident, he'll place them under Shirley's care.

Violet and Sunny put Klaus to bed, and then go to the mill's library. Violet reads the book donated by Orwell and learns that Orwell's technique uses a command word to control the subject and an "unhypnotize" word. They then hear the lumbermill starting early, and rush to see what is happening. They find Charles strapped to a log which Klaus is pushing through a buzz saw, and Foreman Flacutono giving orders. The girls move to stop them but see Klaus' bare feet, a clue that he has been hypnotized out of bed yet again. Violet, after reading a book by Dr. Orwell, learns the command word ("lucky"), and orders Klaus to release Charles but Flacutono orders him to continue. Shirley and Orwell arrive and the latter orders Klaus to ignore his sisters. Violet works out, and says, the word with which Flacutono unhypnotized Klaus ("inordinate") just in time. Violet is caught by Shirley and Flacutono, but Klaus manages to set Charles free. Sunny and Orwell have a fight, with Orwell's sword and Sunny's teeth; as Mr. Poe and Sir unexpectedly enter the room, Orwell steps back in surprise, into the path of the buzz saw, and dies.

Count Olaf is locked in the library but escapes out the window with Foreman Flacutono, who is revealed to be the bald man with the long nose in disguise. Sir relinquishes the Baudelaires from his care.


  • On the last picture, there is a school bus parked outside the lumbermill, foreshadowing The Austere Academy.
  • Author's note at the end of the book has a ripped edge, foreshadowing the Orphan's shack that the Baudelaires would live, which is filled with territorial crabs.

Cultural references and literary allusions[edit]

  • When Lemony Snicket mentions having to fight with a TV repairman, it might be a reference to The Cable Guy which contains a scene in which the characters played by Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick go to a restaurant named "Medieval Times" and are chosen to fight with swords. (Coincidentally, Jim Carrey plays Count Olaf in the film)
  • The names Charles and Phil are also names of two members of the British Royal Family. This may be a reference to the fact that the Industrial Revolution began in England, or it could be just a coincidence.
  • Klaus mentions a case in the Encyclopedia Hypnotica where a man in 1920s England was hypnotized such that if the hypnotist shouted "Bloomsbury", he became a revered writer despite the fact that he was illiterate. This is a reference to the Bloomsbury Group, a collection of modernist authors - most notably Virginia Woolf - who lived and worked together in and around Bloomsbury, London in the early 20th century. This is not the first time that Snicket has made backhanded insults to the group in A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Reptile Room mentions the "Virginia Wolfsnake", which should "never, under any circumstances" be "let near a typewriter".
  • Dr. Georgina Orwell is named after author George Orwell. Her building is designed to resemble a great eye, which is a likely allusion to the famous figure from Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty-Four, Big Brother, who is proverbially "watching" at all times; some editions of 1984 feature one or more eyeballs on the cover. Also, Orwell hypnotizes Klaus, a reference to the fact that the Thought Police tried to make you think like them.[1][original research?]
  • The full-page illustration on page 125 of the U.S. hardcover, first edition, shows a sign shaped like a pair of eyes looking through eyeglasses, suspended above the door to Dr. Orwell's office. This sign is reminiscent of the billboard of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby.
  • There are many similarities between Charles and a character in The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen named Charles who seems to be the link between Capitalism and Socialism. The plot for The Last Town on Earth takes place in a lumber mill completely opposite of Lucky Smells.
  • "Sir" is reminiscent of "Mr. Sir" from the book Holes by Louis Sachar.
  • The "Ahab Memorial Hospital" where Phil is taken to recover from his leg injury may be a reference to Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, who is known to have lost a leg.
  • The UK cover of the book bears a strong resemblance to the US one, except Violet is replaced by Foreman Flacutono.

Plot notes[edit]

  • The only food the workers are given all day is a casserole for dinner and gum for lunch. They are paid in coupons. Ironically, at the end of the book, Phil reads the town constitution and says that it's illegal to pay workers in coupons. In The Grim Grotto, the Baudelaires find boxfuls of gum in the kitchen, brought there by Phil.
  • Brett Helquist's style of illustration changes following this book.
  • In the beginning of the book, the Baudelaires enter the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, passing a stack of newspapers. It is later mentioned, in Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, that the archives of The Daily Punctilio were stacked up in large towers along a street in a small town matching the description of Paltryville.
  • "Flacutono" is an anagram of "Count Olaf."
  • When Klaus is dazed after being hypnotized he calls Violet "Veronica" and Sunny "Susan". When the Baudelaires are on the run from the police, the Daily Punctilio calls Violet "Veronica" and Sunny "Susie". Count Olaf also calls Violet “Veronica” under the guise of Captain Sham in The Wide Window.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]