Study Guide

The Bad Beginning

By Lemony Snicket

The Bad Beginning Introduction

We're sorry to say that the learning guide you're about to read is extremely unpleasant.

Hey, we had to give you fair warning—after all, there's one scrawled on the back of the freaking book. It just wouldn't be right to let you keep going without offering some sort of heads-up, right?

With that out of the way, since you've stuck around instead of running for the hills, we'd like to officially welcome you to The Bad Beginning, the story of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire and the seemingly endless series of unfortunate events they encounter after their parents perish tragically in a fire one day. See? We told you we're in unpleasant territory.

Written way back in 1999, this is the first book in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). And despite brimming with terribleness—we're talking evil-villains-turned-father-figures, babies dangling in bird cages from the tops of towers, and even a run-in with a child bride—these books have sold over sixty million copies. So while they're filled with people and things that are no good, the books themselves are very good indeed. That, or there are millions of idiots with terrible taste in literature in the world. Lemony Snicket would certainly find that possible.

So if you have the stomach for a book filled with sorrowful orphans, terrible villains, and unreasonable demands for roast beef, then you've come to the right place. And if not? Well, you can't say we didn't warn you.

What is The Bad Beginning About and Why Should I Care?

Say what you want about The Bad Beginning (and the rest of A Series of Unfortunate Events), but one thing is absolutely certain: It's intensely creative. Seriously—here's a sampling of Handler's (we mean Snicket's) imagination in action:

  • Instead of setting this story in a specific place and time, it's set in a hodgepodge of lots of places and times. Characters' names come from different regions of the world, technology simultaneously appears from different eras—this setting is a hot mess.
  • Not only are the three Baudelaire orphans incredibly clever and resourceful, one of them happens to have very sharp teeth, an attribute usually reserved for describing lions or vampires instead of sweet little babies.
  • Instead of encouraging readers to pick up this book and keep reading it, readers are constantly discouraged and assured they would have a better time reading a different tale.

These are just a few of our favorite things, and basically the tip of The Bad Beginning's creative iceberg. There's something to delight (or epically dismay) everyone in this read, so grab a copy and get ready to find your own stand-out creative moments.

The Bad Beginning Resources

Websites

A Very Unfortunate Website
The official website for Lemony Snicket. We don't recommend clicking this.

The Lemony Snicket Wiki
For fans of the series who want to know more, and as such, clearly hate joy.

Movie or TV Productions

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
Here's the film adaptation of the first three books in this series with Jim Carrey starring as Count Olaf.

Get Your Binge On
A Series of Unfortunate Events gets the Netflix treatment. How horrible.

Articles and Interviews

All Things Unfortunate
This article examines A Series of Unfortunate Events, starting with when Handler had written only one hundred pages.

Not Snicket
Handler talks about his books, the A Series of Unfortunate Events movie, and who his target audience is (spoiler alert: people who get it).

Video

"Scream and Runaway" by the Gothic Archies
A song about Count Olaf. Why would you want to click on this?

An Unfortunate Author
Handler goes online to warn people away from all of Mr. Snicket's melancholy books.

12 Books in 120 Seconds
If you just can't bear to read them all, find out what happens in the rest of the book in A Series of Unfortunate Events (in under two minutes). It's quick—like pulling off a Band-Aid.

A Maiming of Innocent Books
Lauren Conrad caught a bit of flack when she cut up some of the books from A Series of Unfortunate Events for a craft project. But really, who could object to that? Not Snicket, that's for sure.

Audio

An Interview with Handler
In this 2004 conversation on Fresh Air, the author talks about the success of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Lemony Snicket Reads from The Bad Beginning
Our author reads the story out loud until he's overcome with sadness.

The Tragic Treasury by the Gothic Archies
A whole CD of songs based on A Series of Unfortunate Events. How truly dreadful.

Images

Lemony Snicket
The elusive author caught on film.

A Series of Unfortunate Events Movie Poster
Avoid at all costs.

The Marvelous Marriage
Well, marvelous for Count Olaf that is.

The Bad Beginning or, Orphans! Cover Art
What a depressing sight.