The Unfortunate Course

The Bad Beginning

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Bad Beginning Plot

A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Bad Beginning - The Baudelaires
The Bad Beginning – The Baudelaires

The book begins with the Baudelaire children (Violet, Klaus, and Sunny) enjoying a dark, foggy day at Briny Beach when it is not crowded. Arthur Poe, a friend of the family, emerges and approaches them with news of their parents’ demise in a fire that destroyed their home. Mr. Poe is the executor of the Baudelaire fortune, whose duty is to stay in control of the fortune until Violet comes of age.

The Baudelaire orphans then spend the next few days in the Poe residence until Mr. Poe announces they would move to live with their appropriate guardian’s home. The guardian is Count Olaf (While it is unknown why the Baudelaire parents would send their children to such an evil man, in the TV series Count Olaf tricks Mr. Poe into giving them the children)a distant relative who makes his living as a theatrical actor in the city. When they arrive, they meet Justice Strauss (Whom the children confuse as Count Olaf’s wife), who is friendly towards the children and works as a judge on the High Court.

Olaf’s house is filthy and covered in pictures of eyes (This eye is later revealed to be a symbol of V.F.D). It has a tower in which the Baudelaires are forbidden from entering. Count Olaf is unpleasant, easily angered, and calls the Baudelaires “orphans.” Olaf only provided them with one filthy room with only one bed, a pile of rocks as toys, and a cardboard box for clothes. He forces the children to perform many laborious and difficult chores such as chopping wood which he doesn’t use and most likely made the children chop wood for his own amusement.

One day, the Baudelaires are given the task of making dinner for Olaf and his theatre troupe. They go to Justice Strauss’s house and find a recipe book in her library, and decide to make an Italian dish called: pasta puttanesca. Justice Strauss brings the children to the market to buy the ingredients. The Baudelaires go home to make the dish. While the Baudelaires are in the kitchen, Olaf enters and demands roast beef. The children remind him that he never asked them to make roast beef and Olaf becomes very angry. He lifts Sunny up to frighten the children as “discipline,”(It is implied he was going to drop her to the ground)but puts her down and accepts to eat their “disgusting sauce” anyway. The Baudelaires retreat to the kitchen and Violet looks at the pasta sauce in the pot, which now resembles a vat of blood to her.

After dinner, Olaf excuses the children from attending his play, and he orders the children to their “beds.” A furious Klaus reminds Olaf he has only provided them one bed and they can’t use their fortune to buy another until Violet is of age, causing Olaf to angrily slap Klaus’ face so hard he falls to the floor, while Olaf’s theatre troupe only laughs and applauds Olaf. The depressed Baudelaires wash the dishes and go to sleep, quietly weeping because of the terrible situation they are in.

The next day, the children go to the city and complain about Olaf’s lifestyle and abuse to Mr. Poe at Mulctuary Money Management, who downplays their complaints and could not care less, while answering various odd phone calls. Even when Violet mentions Count Olaf slapped Klaus so hard that a bruise still remains, Poe tells them that Olaf is acting “in loco parentis” and he can raise them any way he sees fit, even if they do not particularly like it. Frustrated, the Baudelaires decide to suck it up and go to Justice Strauss’s library and immerse themselves in books to cope.

A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Bad Beginning - The Baudelaires wonder if their oatmeal is poisoned.
The Bad Beginning – The Baudelaires wonder if their oatmeal is poisoned.

The next morning, Olaf reveals Mr. Poe blabbed to him about their visit. Olaf apologizes for being “standoffish”, which the Baudelaires feel is a word that really downplays his behavior. Olaf gives the children oatmeal with raspberries. They wonder if it is poison berries, but eat it after Olaf does. Olaf announces he has given the children roles in his new play, The Marvelous Marriage, in which Violet will marry Olaf. Although Violet mentions she could do the mechanical work building the sets, Olaf persuades her to take the main role of the bride because a “pretty girl” like her shouldn’t be backstage. The children suspect something is amiss and use Justice Strauss’s library to research the law. However, the Hook Handed Man arrives to fetch the children. He reveals to Klaus that once Count Olaf gets their fortune, he will kill them all. After he leaves, Klaus sneaks a law book back to Count Olaf’s house and stays up all night reading it. Klaus learns that the marriage in the play will be legally binding allowing Olaf to be in control of their fortune.

The next day, Klaus confronts Olaf about his plan, which Olaf admits. Klaus is confused because Olaf doesn’t seem frightened or intimidated, and Olaf tells Klaus to wake up his sisters and inform them of his victory. Klaus wakes up Violet, and they become worried when they can not find Sunny. Olaf leads them to the backyard, where they see Sunny locked in a dangled birdcage from the top of the forbidden tower, her mouth taped and body tied. Olaf reveals he had had one of his associates swipe Sunny. He threatens to kill her if Klaus and Violet do not follow his plan, and the Baudelaires are forced to comply.

A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Bad Beginning - Klaus and Violet trapped in the forbidden tower after Violet is caught trying to rescue Sunny.
The Bad Beginning – Klaus and Violet trapped in the forbidden tower after Violet is caught trying to rescue Sunny.

That night, Violet constructs a makeshift grappling hook and uses it to climb up the tower. She finds the Hook Handed Man waiting to capture her. Klaus is brought up to the tower and they are locked together in the room until the play begins. The two try to come up with a way to work around Olaf’s plan, but he sneaks up on them and reveals that he will keep in contact with the Hook Handed Man through walkie-talkies. If anything goes wrong, Olaf will have Sunny killed.

During the play, Violet is forced to sign the marriage document, and Olaf ends the performance to tell the audience that their wedding was legally binding. Justice Strauss and Mr. Poe both object, but concede that the law requires them to hand over the Baudelaire fortune to Olaf. Violet interrupts to proclaim that the marriage was not legally binding, as she signed with her left hand despite being right-handed, and the law states that the bride must sign in her “own” hand. Justice Strauss agrees that this logical loophole invalidates the marriage, even after Violet was forced to under duress of Sunny being killed. Olaf prepares to have Sunny dropped to her death, but the Hook Handed Man arrives with Sunny (Olaf earlier told him to bring Sunny over, as he thought he had been married to Violet).

Before Olaf can be arrested, one of his associates turns the lights in the theatre off. Violet finds the light switch in the dark and as she is about to raise it, Olaf whispers in her ear that once he obtains her fortune he will kill her and her siblings before disappearing when the lights are on. Justice Strauss tells the Baudelaires that she is willing to adopt them and the Baudelaires support the idea, however, Mr. Poe says that this would go against their parents’ will as Strauss is not directly related to the Baudelaires, and the will states the Baudelaires must go to their “closest living relative.” Mr. Poe takes them back to his household until he can find another guardian for them. The Baudelaires are saddened but thank Justice Strauss and say goodbye as they enter Mr. Poe’s car to their next destination.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Bad Beginning Crossword