Study Guide

Ledroptha Curtain in The Mysterious Benedict Society

By Trenton Lee Stewart

Ledroptha Curtain

He's No Lepidopterist

The names are kind of close (Ledroptha/Lepidoptera)—if you use a really small font and squint—but we doubt that Mr. Curtain is a big fan of butterflies (or any other lepidopterans). That's because Mr. Curtain is really only interested in two things: himself and control. This is pretty clear from the first moment we meet Mr. Curtain when he shoots into a classroom:

[…] in a motorized wheelchair, moving so quickly and with such apparent recklessness that every child in the room scooted backward in fear of being struck. Mr. Curtain had perfect control of his chair, however, and as he raced down the rows he expertly dodged the children's feet and the sharp corners of their desks, smiling as he went. (12.17)

Not that anyone should take comfort from the fact that he's in control. Or the fact that he's smiling. That smile indicates just how much he enjoys instilling fear in these children, and the control thing? It's pretty much an obsession with this guy. What's more, while most people have a soft spot for children, Mr. Curtain sees them only as a means to an end. As he says, "[…] my Whisperer has always needed children, and children are averse to pain—I've found that out through experience" (26.87).

An Alternate (and Unlikely) Theory

Oh sure—he could be talking about his own experiences with pain as a child, but somehow we doubt that. We're pretty sure that what he's getting at here is the idea that he's experimented on children in the past and found—much to his shock, we're sure—that they aren't too keen on pain.

Of course, that's just the way we read it. His words are certainly open to interpretation, but good luck finding an ounce of evidence that this guy hasn't hurt a bunch of people, kids included, during his years of research. And while you're looking for that evidence? Consider the Waiting Room. You know—that nice, warm, squishy, crawly place where he sends kids to think about their transgressions.

Horrible… and Essential

Regardless of what we think of Mr. Curtain (um, that would be: not much), he's an important character in the book. Not only does he serve as a perfect foil for his twin brother, Mr. Benedict, but he's also a great antagonist for Reynie. It's Mr. Curtain's presence in Reynie's life that forces him to do some serious soul searching and face his fear that he will ultimately prove himself unworthy of friendship by betraying the people closest to him and spend the rest of his life alone.

As Mr. Curtain tells S.Q. and Martina, "The only way fears truly disappear is if you confront them," and it's because of Mr. Curtain that Reynie does just that. In fact, it's because of Mr. Curtain that Kate realizes she sometimes needs to rely on others; and it's because of Mr. Curtain that Sticky finds bravery within himself. Constance also benefits from Mr. Curtain's maniacal existence in that his plot gives her a chance to prove (a) that her strong will is a gift, and (b) that she knows how to step up when it really matters.

The Curtain of Oz?

You know, now that we think about it it's kind of like Mr. Curtain is some kind of perverse version of the Wizard of Oz. Like the Wizard, he helps the kids to discover strengths—like courage, brains, and heart—that they always had within them. And the Wizard, when his true identity is on the verge of being discovered, does say, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

Coincidence? Yeah probably, but still—it's a pretty cool connection. Especially since Dorothy tells him shortly thereafter, "You're a very bad man." And Mr. Curtain? Is.

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