“Although he said he was the executor, Violet felt like Mr. Poe was the executioner.” The Bad Beginning is the first book in the book series A Series of Unfortunate Events written by Lemony Snicket. The Bad Beginning marks a tragic start to the series with the Baudelaire children becoming Baudelaire orphan to the series of unfortunate events that is to follow.
The story began with the Baudelaire children (Violet, Klaus and Sunny) playing by the beach when the executor of their parents’ affairs, Mr. Poe, suddenly appears and tells them that their parents perished in a horrible fire. Depressed and lonely, the children who were now orphans were told that they would live with their closest relative, a man by the name of Count Olaf. Count Olaf treats the children poorly and forced them to perform chores every single day whilst cooking up a plan to steal their fortune. The Baudelaires soon come to realize this and made an attempt to find out about his plan. Count Olaf’s plan of marrying Violet during the play The marvelous marriage in order to obtain the Baudelaire fortune was known to the three Baudelaires. In an attempt to continue his plans, Count Olaf threatens to take the life of Sunny, the youngest Baudelaire, by dropping her from a 30 ft tower should the other two “misbehaves”. In a desperate attempt to escape this horrible fate violet signed the paper with her left hand instead of her right and waited to reveal this secret only after Count Olaf have released Sunny. However, Count Olaf escapes and vows revenge on the children.
In the story, the main protagonists, the Baudelaire children, are a very talented bunch of children. Violet, who had “a real knack for inventing and building”, constructed a grappling hook from dirty cloths and a curtain rod. Klaus, “the middle child and the only twelve” have “read a great many books and had retained a lot of the information from his readings”. Sunny, who was only a baby, likes to bite things and is tiny in size. “What she lacked in size, however, she made up for with the size and sharpness of her teeth.” Count Olaf, whose name sounds like that of a vampire, is the main antagonist. He is a villain that tries to take the Baudelaire fortune. He is best characterized by the following thought from violet; “The really frightening thing about Count Olaf, she realized, was that he was very smart after all. He wasn’t merely an unsavory drunken brute, but an unsavory, clever drunken brute.”
The Bad Beginning focuses clearly on one pessimistic theme; the theme of this novel is that the world can be tough and cruel, often getting worse as time progresses. The story first starts with Mr. Poe informing the children about the loss of their parents and gets worse with the introduction of Count Olaf as the Baudelaire orphan’s new guardian. The Baudelaire’s luck then gets even worse when Count Olaf becomes hell-bent on taking their fortune. Then the story reaches its climax (ironically the part with the Baudelaire orphans in the worst situation possible) when Count Olaf threatens to kill Sunny Baudelaire. Finally, at the end of the novel, even when Count Olaf’s plot has been revealed, he still manages to escape with all his assistants from the authorities vowing revenge against the Baudelaires.
This story holds an important symbol to its audience for the purpose of this and future books in this series, it can be referred to as “the eye”. In the story, whenever the narrator (Lemony Snicket) mentions Count Olaf’s eyes shining or the tattoo of an eye on his ankle, it instantly foreshadows misfortune upon the Baudelaires. This occurs several times in this novel such as when “Count Olaf’s eyes grew very shiny” and then a few seconds later Sunny was found trapped in a cage hung 30 ft high at the top of a tower. Another example would be at the beginning of the book when Klaus made an observation regarding Count Olaf’s tattoo of an eye right before they began to be forced to perform harsh chores such as chopping firewood. This symbol is carried out throughout the entire series as a symbol of misfortune and grief for the Baudelaires.
In addition to foreshadowing, many other literary devices are used in this novel. Firstly, the usage of contrast is evident in this novel as the author contrasts the “most beautiful house on the block” against Count Olaf’s house which “sagged to the side, like a crooked tooth” to show the misfortunes of the Baudelaire having to live in such a place. Another literary device being used is the invocation of pathos by detailed description of the children’s misfortune and depression found throughout the novel. Finally, there is a great deal of dramatic irony to be found in this novel. For example, during the final chapters the readers know that Justice Strauss’ role in the play as the judge actually serves the purpose of marrying Violet to Count Olaf. However, Justice Strauss, not knowing anything about Count Olaf’s plan, tells the children that “this is going to be such fun!” no knowing that she is taking steps towards dooming the Baudelaires.
In conclusion, The Bad Beginning is an extremely well written novel suitable for people of all ages who like stories. This story reflects the cruelty of the real world to a certain degree and advises people that appearances can be deceiving. I have personally enjoyed reading this book and have shared it with many people that I have known. The story of the Baudelaire orphans may be unfortunate, but it is fortunate that Lemony Snicket decided to release their story so the world may read it.
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