Count Olaf has so many significant lines in The End, but this is one of my personal favorites. When the islanders notice that Kit
Snicket has the same tattoo as Olaf, whom they accept as being wicked,
he says “You should either punish us both or set us both free.”
Olaf is just trying to get the islanders to let him out of his birdcage
but he raises an interesting question: why does Kit deserve to be free
while Olaf deserves to be imprisoned?
Of course, it’s easy to see
that Olaf needs to be locked up for everyone’s safety while Kit is a
noble volunteer who’s trying to make the world a bit quieter. There’s
really no question about that. But things get a bit confusing when you
start to look at Kit’s methods–at the lying, the misuse and
manipulation of children, the secrets, and the harm she’s wrought. While she thinks a lot about the good of humanity as a whole she cares very little about the welfare of individuals and uses children like tools to get her (admittedly noble) work done. And let’s
not forget who gave Beatrice and Bertrand that box
of poison darts at the opera! Does having good intentions make her a
good person even if her methods are wrong?
Volunteers want, as Mr. Snicket so eloquently put it in Shouldn’t You Be in School,
“Not an aristocracy of power, based on rank or wealth, but an
aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky” (SYBIS
pages 207-208). But it seems like some volunteers accidentally sink to the level of a
villain like Olaf while they’re trying to achieve that aristocracy and begin fighting
fire with fire, probably without realizing it. So that raises the
question of whether a woman like Kit Snicket should be treated on the
same level as a man like Count Olaf. If one is punished, perhaps the
other should be as well.