Macabre and Humor for Children in The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
A lot of children’s stories involve daring adventures, life lessons, examination of faith or simply entertain the reader; an excellent example of children’s literature that examines faith while also entertaining the reader would be C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Not all together so with The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket. This first story in The Series of Unfortunate Events collection, though entertaining and providing a great moral, does not contain a plethora of cheerfulness and good will. This review will give you a glimpse into Snicket’s macabre tale and how, though the story is completely unlike Lewis’ works, Snicket uses some of the same style as Lewis.
There once lived three small children named Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire. They came from a loving home and were quite happy. Until the day their lives were turned upside down in a terrible tragedy and afterwards became filled with all sorts of misery. The Bad Beginning recounts their woeful tale from that tragic day on, including a creepy house, bad food and sinister villains with dastardly schemes. The siblings, however, stick together and use their wit and love for each other to overcome adversity.
Though Snicket’s novel deals with some very serious issues using quite a macabre tone, he does use a great deal of humor to lighten the subject matter. While any inquisitive youngster with a penchant for reading, exploring and learning about the world around them and how it works can relate with the Baudelaire siblings, Snicket over emphasizes his villain to make him seem a little less believable, though still quite creepy. At times, the trouble that the Baudelaire siblings find themselves in can be quite frightening to a very young reader; hesitancy should be used with a child younger than age ten in reading this novel. For the slightly older reader though, the humor sprinkled throughout can help alleviate the tense parts of the story. The juxtaposition of the comedic and macabre bring a great balance to the story and without one or the other, it probably wouldn’t survive. Snicket’s writing will have the reader gripping the page one paragraph and the very next paragraph the reader will be laughing out loud. To that end, any child that lives in the tragic world in which we reside today can easily relate to the very positive moral of this story.
What about Lewis? Snicket and Lewis both write in such a style that when reading their books for children, it feels as though they occasionally take a sentence or two to speak directly to the reader - or in Snicket’s case sometimes a whole page to go off on a personal tangent – but this only adds to the humor of his writing. This kind of writing directly to the reader brings a much realer relationship between the author and the reader, while also providing reassurance that this book is in fact, a made up story, scary parts and all. Lewis and Snicket also use these little quips as opportunities to teach a child little life lessons.
Should The Bad Beginning enter into your child’s library? For the mature reader, even the sensitive ones, yes. The Baudelaire siblings face terrible tragedy and reading about tragedy helps make it seem not quite as scary, or at the very least, not an end all forever. The Baudelaire siblings survive, learn and even grow while the lessons they learn help them overcome their tragedy in a positive way, something that most people would be better off knowing. Lewis used his works to help teach children to be brave in order to face a sometimes scary world; it would not be far off to say the same of Snicket.