The Ersatz Elevator

by Lemony Snicket
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Last Updated on December 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 945

Violet Baudelaire

Violet Baudelaire is the oldest of the three Baudelaire children. Violet is fourteen years old in The Ersatz Elevator, and is a very intelligent and resourceful girl who is especially talented at inventing things. Violet has a habit of tying her hair back with a ribbon before she starts working on an invention. In The Ersatz Elevator, she invents a climbing device and a welding torch that can melt the bars of the cage holding the remaining two Quagmire triplets. Like her siblings—and unlike Count Olaf and many of the other adults she encounters—Violet is well-mannered, perceptive, and has a strong moral compass. For example, in this book she expresses to Esmé her strong conviction that as one of the children's guardians, Esmé should be keeping them safe, not throwing them down elevator shafts. Violet and Klaus also carry Sunny up to the Squalor apartment, in a compassionate contrast to the adults who consign the children to climbing dozens of flights of stairs because elevators are “out,” or unfashionable.

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Klaus Baudelaire

Klaus Baudelaire is the second oldest of the Baudelaire orphans. He is twelve years old as of The Ersatz Elevator. He loves books and doing research. He likes to think very hard, and ignores his surroundings when he is doing so, which the book describes as his “idiosyncrasy.” In The Ersatz Elevator, Klaus helps Violet and Sunny determine what the initials of the secret society V.F.D. mean. He is disappointed when every book in the Quagmire library only describes what is “in” or “out”—that is, fashionable or unfashionable. Like his siblings, he is polite and ethical, he cares about others who are in danger (such as the Quagmires), and he is smarter than most of the adults around him.

Sunny Baudelaire

Sunny Baudelaire is the youngest of the Baudelaire orphans. She is a baby who cannot yet walk, described as hardly bigger than “a salami.” Her most valuable tool—and weapon—is her four very large and sharp teeth. For example, when Esme pushes the children down the empty elevator shaft, Sunny uses her teeth to climb back up again. Her language can be difficult for people to comprehend—he will say "Freijip?" when she means "How can you think of elevators at a time like this?"—but her siblings are able to understand her. Despite her young age, Sunny is, like her older siblings, very resourceful, and she rises to occasions that might daunt a much older child. Her great desire in life is to find objects to bite.

Count Olaf/Gunther

Count Olaf is the Baudelaire children’s distant cousin, which is how he gains guardianship of the children after the death of their parents. His goal is to kill the children and seize their large inheritance.

Olaf is crude, cruel, evil, oafish, and violent. Although he is unscrupulous and has more power than the children, they are smarter than he is and are able to see through his disguises and stratagems to harm them. Count Olaf is distinguished by his single continuous eyebrow and the eye he has tattooed on his ankle, a symbol of V.F.D. In The Ersatz Elevator, he disguises himself as Gunther, an auctioneer who says “please” far too often. As Gunther, he wears a monocle to disguise his continuous eyebrow, and riding boots to hide his tattoo.

Jerome Squalor

Jerome is the children's new guardian in The Ersatz Elevator. He is wealthy and successful, with a seventy-one bedroom apartment. He is also extremely conflict-averse, which means he allows his wife, Esmé, to make most major decisions. A friend of the Baudelaire children’s late mother, Jerome has kind intentions toward them, but does not believe them when they tell him they recognize Count Olaf. The children don't feel safe with him because, though he is well-meaning, he goes along with whatever anybody else says. Jerome is another of the weak or otherwise compromised adults in A Series of Unfortunate Events who are unable to adequately care for the Baudelaire children. Ultimately, he must give them up.

Esmé Squalor

A would-be actress, Esmé’s great desire is to get her hands on the children's money. Esmé is very tall and very concerned with fashion, especially what is “in” and what is “out.” She wants the children to live with her because orphans are “in.” She likes Gunther because she thinks he is “in,” and also because she believes that through him, she can obtain the Baudelaire children's fortune. The children consider her cruel when she simply laughs after finding them caught in the elevator shaft. Readers learn that Count Olaf was her acting teacher and that the two are in love. Esmé shows her shallowness and lack of intelligence by believing the oafish Olaf is a genius.

Isadora Quagmire

Isadora is one of the two surviving Quagmire triplets. The Baudelaire orphans met her and her brother Duncan at the Austere Academy in the previous book in the series.

Duncan Quagmire

Isadora's surviving triplet sibling, Duncan has also been captured by Count Olaf. Like Isadora, he feels a strong affinity with the Baudelaire children because they too are orphaned and will inherit an “enormous” fortune. In the Quagmires’ case, their fortune will consist of famous “Quagmire sapphires.”

The Hook-Handed Man/The Doorman

The hook-handed man is a helper to Count Olaf who has hooks instead of hands. He often disguises his hooks beneath fake hands or with costumes. In The Ersatz Elevator, he hides his hands with a long-sleeved doorman’s coat to deceive the children. He works closely with Olaf and Esmé; like Esmé, he considers himself an actor.

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