At the castle, Mig has enough to eat for the first time in her life. She soon grows very round. The narrator is also obligated to note the unfortunate truth that Mig is a bit lazy and is also not especially intelligent. Because of these faults, Louise struggles to find appropriate work for Mig. Mig fails at being a lady in waiting, at sewing, and at being a chambermaid (she’s clumsy and too in awe of the fine clothes and furnishings to work). While Mig is failing at her work, down in the dungeons Chiaroscuro is plotting his revenge, and upstairs Despereaux is falling in love with the Princess Pea. There will absolutely be consequences.
Mig might not be the best employee, but life still seems to be looking up for her—having enough food seems like it’s far preferable to suffering physical violence and hunger while working for Uncle. And now, the three storylines begin to converge, which creates tension and excitement—especially since readers are alerted that there will be “consequences.” That Mig is failing so badly in the castle’s main floors (and being hit for it) also subtly shows that the light upper floors—which are associated with goodness—aren’t all good. They can be violent, too.
As a consequence for Mig’s inability to perform any task to Louise’s satisfaction, Louise sends Mig to work for Cook in the kitchen. Mig makes horrible mistakes there too, such as scrubbing the floor with oil and sneezing on the king’s food right before it’s served. Cook finally becomes so exasperated with Mig that she shouts there’s only one place for Mig: the dungeon. It’s her job now to take the jailer his lunch.
Taking Gregory his food is framed as being the absolute worst job for someone employed in the kitchen. However, note that Mig has a lot more privilege here than, say, Despereaux: in theory, at least, she can leave the dungeon without issue.
Readers already know that mice fear the dungeon, and it should go without saying that the humans in the castle are also afraid. They can never not think about it, as its stench permeates the castle in the summer. In the winter, howls from deep within the dungeon make it seem like the castle is crying. Many serving girls have been tasked with taking the jailer’s meal to the dungeon, and most return weeping and refuse to go back. Others take the jailer his meal and never return. Might this happen to Mig? Hopefully not, since this won’t be a good story without her.
This description of the dungeon highlights the novel’s insistence that darkness, and even evil, are everywhere—even someplace supposedly good, like the light and bright castle. And again, the narrator also draws attention to the idea that bad things must happen in an otherwise good story to make it fun and interesting. Readers should of course hope that Mig emerges alive and well, but the possibility that she might not creates tension, while the tone invites humor.
Shouting, Cook gives Mig her instructions: take the tray to the dungeon, wait for the old man to eat, and bring the tray back. Mig says she understands and doesn’t hear Cook mutter that Mig will certainly find a way to mess this up. Cook watches Mig go down the dungeon stairs—the same stairs Despereaux fell down yesterday. Mig has a candle on her tray, and she smiles back at Cook. Cook is shocked. Who smiles as they go into the dungeon?
Mig, perhaps, simply doesn’t understand that the dungeon itself is an embodiment of evil, fear, and suffering. She’s already suffered so much that it's possible even more suffering doesn’t quite register with her. Cook’s exasperated tone, meanwhile, highlights that Mig might not be enslaved anymore, but this doesn’t mean she’s not still being treated poorly by those in charge of caring for her.