Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide
A Series of Unfortunate Events is the term HarperCollins uses to describe a
sequence of books written by Lemony Snicket concerning the miserable plight of
the three Baudelaire children at the hands of the sinister Count Olaf. It is a
New York Times Best-selling series and has sold hundreds of thousands of copies
in North America and will soon be appearing all over the world. This guide is a
desperate attempt to stop this travesty before it is too late. The discussion
topics, suggested reading list and author biography in this reading group guide
are intended to guide the public toward books that are less dreadful and so to
promote comfort and vitality rather than despair and anxiety in our large and
About These Books
Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are some of the most charming, clever and
resourceful children one could hope to meet, but that is not enough. Violet, the
eldest, is an inventor, but she has been unable to invent a device that could
undo the terrible fire that claimed their parents lives. Klaus is a very
skilled researcher, but nothing he reads can save them from the treachery of the
villainous Count Olaf. And even Sunnys four sharp teeth cannot bite through the
chain of misfortune that encircles the children as they try to uncover Olafs
evil plans to steal the fortune the Baudelaire parents left behind.
In Book the First, The Bad Beginning
, the Baudelaires first encounter
Count Olaf, and barely escape his horrid attempt to marry Violet and secure the
fortune for himself. In Book the Second, The Reptile Room
Baudelaires are placed in the care of their Uncle Monty and his collection of
reptiles, who accidentally help Olaf in his murderous plan. Aunt Josephine, the
childrens guardian in Book the Third, The Wide Window
, fares no better,
and whether the children find themselves in a lumbermill (Book the Fourth,
The Miserable Mill
), a boarding school (Book the Fifth, The Austere
), or in a glamorous penthouse apartment (Book the Sixth, The
), they seem unable to find a moments peace from the
enormous web of deception and despair that hangs over their lives. And so it
goes. Perhaps when the Baudelaires solve the mystery that lies behind Olafs
treachery they can find a way to live out their lives in safetybut perhaps not,
and why in the world should anyone read about each misfortune the children
encounter in the meantime?
At the authors insistence, authorities are examining the following publications
for possible corruption and/or dementia, which would explain the following
Hilarious... Luckily for fans, the woes of the Baudelaires are far from over.
Publishers Weekly (Starred review)
Wicked good fun. Kirkus Review (Pointer review)
This series promises to have a long, productive life. Christian Science
Questions for Discussion
- In The Bad Beginning, Mr. Snicket warns his readers, If you are
interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading
some other book. Yet many people have insisted on continuing to read this
book anyway. What is wrong with such people?
- The theme of The Reptile Room might be best stated, Look out for
Count Olafhe will try to murder you! Why do you think there are so few
books that deal with this theme?
- In The Wide Window, the character of Aunt Josephine is frightened
of many things, and then a very frightening thing happens to her. Is it
useful to feel fear, because it prepares you for nasty events, or is it
useless, because nasty events will occur whether you are frightened or not?
- The Miserable Mill brings up many important issues of the day,
including child labor in the lumber industry, hypnotism within the medical
profession, gum-chewing, cigar-smoking, cross-dressing, and the futility of
coupons, bankers and optimism. How does the treatment of these issues
in Snickets work differ from their treatment in the newspaper, on
television and in musical theater?
- Does anything in your life compare with the anguish the Baudelaire
children encounter in The Austere Academy? If so, how terrible for
you. If not, how nice. Discuss.
- In The Ersatz Elevator, Violet, Klaus and Sunny encounter many
things which are not what they seem. Yet The Ersatz Elevator is what
it seems a book containing nothing but despair, discomfort and woe.
- Violet, the eldest Baudelaire child, often risks her life when using one
of her inventions in a desperate attempt to escape Count Olafs treachery.
Is this a proper role model for young women?
- Klaus, the middle Baudelaire child, often finds out disturbing
information when researching Count Olafs evil ways. Is this a proper
role model for young men?
- Sunny, the youngest Baudelaire child, occasionally uses her four sharp
teeth in an aggressive manner, in order to defeat Count Olafs dreadful
behavior. Is this a proper role model for young babies?
- Each of the books in A Series of Unfortunate Events is dedicated to
Beatrice. When HarperCollins asked Mr. Snicket about this mysterious woman,
he burst into tears and was unable to answer. Is this an appropriate author
for young readers?
- In each of Mr. Snickets books, there is no evidence that Count Olaf has
ever been captured by the appropriate authorities. Is this more terrifying
than horrifying, or more horrifying than terrifying? Discuss.
- If Count Olaf is still at large, isnt it risky to attract his attention
by purchasing and reading any of Mr. Snickets books? Discuss.
- Who is standing behind you right now? Discuss.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.