A Series of Unfortunate Events Characters

Daniel Handler

Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

As books written largely to entertain, the series does not offer particularly profound characters or complex themes. Most of the characters are caricatures, created to propel the plot or to entertain. Only the Baudelaire orphans come close to being fully human and somewhat believable. On the whole, characters simply allow the author to have fun. For example, the villain Count Olaf is an antagonist right out of a melodrama; he has no redeeming qualities. On top of pursuing the orphans relentlessly, Count Olaf has no eyebrows, a dirty house, no taste in theater, and his disguises are always apparent. His awfulness is a continuing tale itself. The supporting characters, most of whom are dim-witted adults, are likewise flat but amusing. For example, the orphans encounter the honest and concerned Hector in The Vile Village, but he is too shy and humble to speak up for the children. Hal, the head of the Library of Records in The Hostile Hospital, is well-meaning but he cannot see very well and he thinks the worst of the Baudelaires. Only children seem to have a clue; the Quagmire orphans turn out to be good friends, for instance, but they vanish for a long time. The orphans must save themselves again and again, a wonderful childhood fantasy of control over one's life.

The Baudelaires are hardly realistic characters, but they are the most real and engaging characters, and they can carry the stories. Sunny, the baby, has four extremely sharp teeth which often turn out to be needed in various disasters; she likes to bite. She also seems to be developing an ironic sense of humor as the books...

(The entire section is 657 words.)