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Kirill Kulikov
Kirill Kulikov

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a series of thirteen children's novels written by American author Daniel Handler under the pen name Lemony Snicket. The books follow the turbulent lives of orphaned siblings Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire. After their parents' death in a fire, the children are placed in the custody of a murderous villain, Count Olaf, who attempts to steal their inheritance and later, causes numerous disasters with the help of his accomplices as the children attempt to flee. As the plot progresses, the Baudelaires gradually confront further mysteries surrounding their family and deep conspiracies involving a secret society known as the Volunteer Fire Department (or V.F.D.).

A Series of Unfortunate Events

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Characterized by Victorian Gothic tones and absurdist textuality,[5][6] the books are noted for their dark humour, sarcastic storytelling, and anachronistic elements, as well as frequent cultural and literary allusions.[3][7] They have been classified as postmodern and metafictional writing, with the plot evolution throughout the later novels being cited as an exploration of the psychological process of the transition from the innocence of childhood to the moral complexity of maturity.[8][9][10] As the series progresses, the Baudelaires must face the reality that their actions have become morally ambiguous, blurring the lines between which characters should be read as "good" or "evil".[5][11][12]

Since the release of the first novel, The Bad Beginning, in September 1999, the books have gained significant popularity, critical acclaim, and commercial success worldwide, spawning a film, a video game, assorted merchandise, and a television series. The main thirteen books in the series have collectively sold more than 60 million copies and have been translated into 41 languages.[13][14] Several companion books set in the same universe of the series have also been released, including Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, The Beatrice Letters, and the noir prequel tetralogy All the Wrong Questions, which chronicles Snicket's childhood.[15]

Prior to the publication of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Handler had never written for children.[16] According to an interview with Handler, he was encouraged to try writing children's books by his friend and editor, Susan Rich.[17] In a separate author interview, Daphne Merkin wrote that Handler adapted a manuscript for a "mock-gothic" book originally intended for adults into a series more suited for children.[16] Handler invented the pseudonym "Lemony Snicket" as an inside joke among friends years before the publication of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The series begins when the orphans are alone at a beach, where they receive news that their parents have been killed in a fire that also destroyed the family mansion. In The Bad Beginning, they are sent to live with a distant relative named Count Olaf after briefly living with Mr. Poe, a banker in charge of the orphans' affairs. The siblings discover that Count Olaf intends to get his hands on the enormous Baudelaire fortune, which Violet is to inherit when she reaches the age of eighteen. In the first book, Olaf attempts to marry Violet to steal the Baudelaire fortune, doing so by pretending that the marriage is the storyline for his latest play. The plan falls through when Violet uses her non-dominant hand to sign the marriage document, thus causing the marriage to be invalidated. After the crowd realizes, Olaf manages to escape with his henchmen.[19]

In the following six books, Olaf disguises himself, finds the children, and, with help from his many accomplices, tries to steal their fortune, committing arson, murder, and other crimes. In books eight through twelve, the orphans adopt disguises while on the run from the police after Count Olaf frames them for a murder he has committed. The Baudelaires routinely try to get help from Mr. Poe, but he, like many of the adults in the series, is oblivious to the dangerous reality of the children's situation.

Violet Baudelaire, the oldest child in the series, uses her inventive mind to create various helpful items, showcasing her talent and resourcefulness. Klaus Baudelaire, the middle child, is twelve when the series begins; he loves all types of books and is an extraordinary speed reader with a photographic memory. Sunny Baudelaire is a baby at the beginning of the series and enjoys biting things with her abnormally large and sharp teeth; she develops a love for cooking later in the series.

Snicket translates for the youngest Baudelaire orphan, Sunny, who in the early books almost solely uses words or phrases that make sense only to her siblings. As the series progresses, her speech often contains disguised meanings. Some words are spelled phonetically: 'Suruchi' in The Slippery Slope and 'Kikuchi?' in The End; some are spelled backwards: 'edasurc' in The Carnivorous Carnival, and 'cigam' in The Miserable Mill. Others contain references to culture or people: for instance, when Sunny says "Bushenyi" (combining the last names of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, presumably), it is followed by the definition of "you are a vile man who has no regard for anyone else". Some words Sunny uses are foreign, such as "Shalom", "Sayonara", or "Arrête". Some are more complex, such as when she says "Akrofil, meaning, 'they were not afraid of heights'", which phonetically translates to acrophilia, meaning one who loves heights. She begins to use standard English words towards the end of the books, one of her longer sentences being "I'm not a baby" in The Slippery Slope.[24]

The name of Beatrice, Snicket's dedicatee, may be an allusion to the poem La Beatrice by Charles Baudelaire. The poem references an "actor without a job", like the actor Count Olaf. The poem also begins with the line "In a burnt, ash-grey land without vegetation", similar to the Baudelaire mansion burning down at the beginning of the series. The name Beatrice could also be an allusion to Italian poet Dante. Dante dedicated all of his works to "Beatrice", with whom he was obsessed, and who was also dead, like Snicket's Beatrice.[26][28]

This series is most commonly classified as children's fiction, but the book has also been classified in more specific genres such as gothic fiction, or some variety thereof, whether it is mock-gothic,[18][29] a satire of gothic literature,[30] neo-Victorian[31] or "suburban gothic".[20] The series has been described as absurdist fiction, because of its strange characters, improbable storylines, and black comedy.[4][32]

Although the series does not neatly fit into the genres of fantasy or science fiction, it does feature occasional instances of whimsy, the supernatural, and steampunk technology. There is a constant theme of some form of fate guiding the characters throughout the books. The Baudelaires are capable of communicating with their infant sister, as well as with reptiles. The Reptile Room houses a variety of fantastical reptiles, including the Incredibly Deadly Viper, which is extremely intelligent and seems to have a humanoid consciousness. There is a mysterious aquatic monster known as the Bombinating Beast.[citation needed]

In a paper for the Maria Curie-Sklodowski University, Barbara Kaczyńska claims that "realism" is absent within the series.[34] Russell disputes this, noting that throughout the novels the narrator insists that the stories he recounts are completely true. She believes that this strong level of realism discredits any argument that the books can be classified as fantasies.[22]

Tison Pugh argues that the central issue of the series is whether the Baudelaires are morally good and distinct from the villains of the story, or whether their actions make them as morally ambiguous as the so-called evil characters.[11] The books have strong themes of moral relativism.[citation needed]

Evil characters are shown to have sympathetic characteristics.[citation needed] Similarly, good characters' flaws become major problems.[citation needed] The books highlight the inevitability of temptation and moral decision-making, regardless of the external situation.[citation needed] This indicates that regardless of one's outside influences, one always has the final choice in whether to be good or bad.[citation needed] Characters that make brave decisions to fight back and take charge are almost always "good", and characters that just go along end up as "bad."[citation needed] However, some characters suggest that people are neither good nor bad, but a mix of both.[35] Rebecca-Anne C. Do Rozario notes the nihilistic tone of the series, claiming the lines between good and evil acts become blurred to the point where they become meaningless.[36]

The series is narrated by Lemony Snicket, the pseudonym of Daniel Handler. He dedicates each of his works to his deceased love interest, Beatrice, and often attempts to dissuade the reader from reading the Baudelaires' unfortunate story. Handler has referred to Lemony Snicket as a "character" who also doubles as the series' narrator.[37] Some details of his life are explained somewhat in a supplement to the series, Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography.

When Snicket describes a word, the reader may be unfamiliar with, he typically prefaces it with the saying "a word which here means . . . ."[34] He sometimes follows this phrase with a humorous definition, or one that is relevant only to the events at hand (for example, he describes "adversity" as meaning "Count Olaf").[18]

The plots of the first seven books follow the same basic pattern: the Baudelaires go to a new guardian in a new location, where Count Olaf appears and attempts to steal their fortune. The books following pick up where the previous book ended.[20] There are thirteen books in the series and each book has thirteen chapters. The last book in the series, The End, contains two stories: The End, which has 13 chapters, and a separate "book" that is titled Chapter Fourteen. The location of each book's events is usually identified in the book's title; the first twelve book titles are generally alliterative. 041b061a72


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