A Series of Unfortunate Events is a 13 book series for children written by pen name Lemony Snicket who is the author Daniel Handler.
Series of Unfortunate Events is a dark humor book series written for children.
Synopsis: These books are about the Baudelaire siblings: Violet (14), Klaus (12), and Sunny (infant-toddler). Their parents are killed in a house fire leaving them orphaned. They are given to Count Olaf, who is a treacherous villain and abuses them since he only wants their fortune. Through a series of unfortunate events they get passed from one guardian to the next all the while Count Olaf and his associates will do anything (marry a child, murder, arson, kidnap, etc.) to get the Baudelaire fortune. Throughout the books, they learn their parents and guardians were involved in a secret organization with Count Olaf called V.F.D. which underwent a schism. They set out to solve the mystery of their parents’ involvement in this organization while trying to escape Count Olaf’s evil plans. The books are narrated by Lemony Snicket who has made it his mission to give the history of the Baudelaire orphans.
Parental Thoughts on Series of Unfortunate Events:
Warning my review has spoilers.
I have a child who read this series in full multiple times (ages 8-11) so I decided to see what they were about. It took me a long time to get into these books. The first four books are exactly the same and I REALLY wanted to quit, but then a mystery starts to develop, the writing style grew on me, and I started to laugh at the dark humor. In the end, I found no satisfaction with the series. The mystery is never really explained. The reader has to fill in a lot of blanks in order for any of it to make sense. There are no characters with redeeming qualities. Even the Baudelaire siblings commit some treacherous deeds (like burning down a hotel full of people). The readers are given the explanation that people are neither good nor bad. They are a mixture of both and therefore it is okay to purposefully choose evil if you have a reason to do so.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that all creation shares in God’s goodness since it comes from the goodness of God (para 299). We are fundamentally good, however Original Sin gives us concupiscence (para 2515) and thus we are inclined to evil. Paragraph 1707: “He still desires the good, but his nature bears the wound of original sin. He is now inclined to evil and subject to error.” All of us, though fundamentally good, are inclined to choose evil. Therefore, we can understand why the Baudelaire children may commit some treacherous deeds especially given the horrendous things Count Olaf does to them in the series. We can see clearly how sin begets more sin, “Thus sin makes men accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them. Sins give rise to social situations . . . that are contrary to the divine goodness. . . They lead their victims to do evil in their turn” (para 1869). Even though we may understand their actions and empathize we should never forget that “The end does not justify the means” (para 1753), and “One may not do evil so that good may result from it” (para 1761).
This series is contrary to these truths.
Negative: These books are full of child abuse that is written with dark humor. No one in the series recognizes the abuse except the children. All adults fall into three categories: 1) they are pure evil and have no problem abusing children, 2) they are brainless or senseless and can’t see what is going on right in front of them, or 3) they notice the abuse but are too scared to do anything about it.
I question if an abused child read these books the conclusion might be that no adult will help. The Baudelaire orphans plead with many adults to help them and these adults either evil, don’t believe them, or state they are too scared. By the end of the series, the children no longer go to adults for help and rely solely on themselves.
I am at a loss at how to interpret the ending of the book. In The End, the children’s lives are saved by eating an apple presented to them by a snake. I am not sure if the author intended this scene to be the opposite of the Genesis story where humanity falls into death by taking the advice of a snake to eat an “apple”. It seems to be too big of a coincident. Note: In Genesis, the type of fruit is never named, but tradition seems to always suggest it is an apple.
Positive: There is one extremely pro-life scene in the last book that I have to discuss. It is with Kit Snicket the one adult character that attempts to help the Baudelaire children but is too busy with other aspects of the mystery. In this scene, everyone is poisoned by a fungus and the children have the antidote (the apple). They offer it to Kit, but she is pregnant and she knows the antidote will harm her child. She decides not to take the antidote. Thus, she dies in order to save her child. Then Lemony Snicket says, “. . . the birth of a baby is always good news, no matter how much bad news the baby will hear later.” I applaud this extremely pro-life scene and statement. Paragraph 459 explains this love, “Jesus is the model . . .: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.” John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life . . . “.
Amazon: Catechism of the Catholic Church
Here are some spoilers. These links will take you to Amazon.
Book 1: The Bad Beginning: Count Olaf attempts to marry Violet who is 14 and there doesn’t seem to be any outrage at the idea.
Book 2: The Reptile Room: Count Olaf dressed in disguise murders their guardian.
Book 3: The Wide Window: Count Olaf again dressed in disguise murders their guardian.
Book 4: The Miserable Mill: The children work in a mill with terrible conditions and are paid in gum.
Book 5: The Austere Academy: The children go to school, where they are placed in “Orphan Shacks”. They have to stay out all night and exercise and are not allowed to sleep.
Book 6: The Ersatz Elevator: Children are held in cages at the bottom of an elevator shaft for the entire book.
Book 7: The Vile Village: A village takes in the children solely as servants to clean.
Book 8: The Hostile Hospital: Count Olaf attempts to cut off Violets head as an educational exercise with an audience.
Book 9: The Carnivorous Carnival: Count Olaf feeds people to lions and there are characters that are called freaks and made fun of for how they look or talents they have.
Book 10: The Slippery Slope: Violet and Klaus are released off a mountain in a caravan in an attempt to murder them. Sunny is held in a bird cage where Olaf instructs an associate to throw her off the mountain.
Book 11: The Grim Grotto: No one seems to care that Sunny is poisoned.
Book 12: The Penultimate Peril: A mob is sent after the children and the justice system fails the children.
Book 13: The End: An entire island is drugged into submission by their facilitator.
Violence: See my review. 5/5
Sex: Nothing over the top, but implications are there. There is one married character who joins Count Olaf as his girlfriend. 2/5
Drugs: Count Olaf drinks wine often. An entire community is drugged with opiate so they don’t remember their past or “rock the boat”. 2/5
Language: All good here. 0/5
Positive Role Models and Educational Value: I think both of these could be argued for the positive and the negative. There are a ton of literary references and the author uses intense vocabulary explains the meaning in witty or funny ways. The children are very smart and loyal to their family and are willing to fight against evil, even though I disagree with some of their choices. 2.5/5