Hi, I'm new in LS's universe (I read everything related last year) and I've found your blog really interesting, you're doing a great job. So, here's my question: What do you think the typewriter means in the triptych? For a long time I thought it was a metaphor about Lemony, that it implied that he was kind of responsible of her death. But now I've realized that if the painter was Lemony's friend, he wouldn't have ever done that, because it would cause Lemony a lot of pain. What do you think?
Good evening to you, @butherlipsarenotmoving!
If you have walked into a museum recently- whether you did so to attend an art exhibition in to escape from the police-you may have noticed a type of painting known as a triptych. A triptych has three panels, with something different painted on each of the panels. For instance, my friend Professor Reed made a trip-tych for me, and he painted fire on one panel, a typewriter on another, and the face of a beautiful, intelligent woman on the third. The triptych is entitled What Happened to Beatrice and I cannot look upon it without weeping.
I am a writer, and not a painter, but if I were to try and paint a triptych entitled The Baudelaire Orphans’ Miserable Experiences at Prufrock Prep, I would paint Mr. Remora on one panel, Mrs. Bass on another, and a box of staples on the third, and the results would make me so sad that between the Beatrice triptych and the Baudelaire triptych I would scarcely stop weeping all day.
[The Austere Academy, Chapter Four]
The arrangement of this triptych seems deliberately arcane so we can only presume of its symbolism. Several questions to consider:
- Is this the fire which consumed the Baudelaire mansion? Or another place?
- Is the typewriter meant to allude to Beatrice’s 200-pages break-up letter to Lemony, as mentioned in Chapter Two of “The Miserable Mill”? Or is this Lemony’s typewriter, with which he wrote the infamous review of Olaf’s play that caused so much trouble to their relationship and later his magnum opus about her children?
- Is the woman Beatrice, her daughter Violet, or even Beatrice Jr (Lemony’s niece)?
Traditionally, triptychs were originally supposed to be read from left to right and from right to middle (with a bigger painting in the middle), and Brett Helquist seems to have followed this convention. According to the text, the box of staples is the third and final painting:
So the most straightforward answer I could come up with is that the triptych answers the question “What happened to Beatrice?” in reverse chronological order: we start from the Baudelaire fire, then move on to Beatrice’s break-up letters and Lemony’s scathing review of Olaf’s play, and finally to the beauty which drove Lemony and Bertrand to their feet.