"The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader." ~ Paulo Coelho

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Various Family Dynamics // Lemony Snicket’s centrality of siblings in stories

Hello readers! 


It is the month of talking about what we love. That's what I do every month on this blog, but this has a special focus for talking about the people we love, not just stories. Therefore I'm going to talk about siblings.

As someone with siblings (note, plural), stories that represent that bond are important to me. And often it feels like character either don't have siblings or act around them in a way that is foreign to me. 

There is, however, a storyteller who absolutely nails talking about various family dynamics, especially siblings: Lemony Snicket.

His most famous work is A Series of Unfortunate Events, which doesn't sound promising for families. In fact, "It will wreck your evening, your whole life, and your day." On the surface it is a series about three orphans who are plagued by terrible events. But at its core, it is a series about trials and triumphs of three siblings trying to figure out the world.

I've come to view Lemony Snicket as writing some of the most realistic siblings I've ever read and related to. And I'm going to tell you why.

Note: This is about two series in the same universe for Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events and All the Wrong Questions. I'm going to talk about the relationships between the characters, but will avoid the plot details, so this is spoiler-free. I've written reviews for the first two books in A Series of Unfortunate Events, so you can read book 1 HERE and book 2 HERE.

Let's get started!


First, I'm going to say that I didn't always think the best of Lemony Snicket's works. In fact, at first I thought "no siblings act like that". That was before I realized that he was portraying some ideal siblings and didn't recognize the special traits he gave each. But not all of this is joy (hello, none of it is joy. It's Lemony Snicket we're talking about). Snicket has a range that I'll talk about today and how that only strengthens the contrasting siblings. I'll give a few examples though I had to cut myself off from talking about EVERY sibling group because or else we'd be here all day.

A Favorite:

The Baudelaires: A Series of Unfortunate Events 

Key characteristic(s):
Defense of each other and using each other's strengths.

The three marvelous and brave children are Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. Each of the children is very defined by their skills (inventing, reading, or biting respectively) and the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of them is how they make the most of their bad situations by using their strengths. Klaus is always suggesting materials that Violet can use to invent things, Violet is always asking Klaus about subjects he might have researched, and the two of them are always making sure Sunny is comfortable and has something to bite. And not just, oh, amuse the baby. They truly include her. This support of each other speaks volumes because they don't look down at each other's interests, but rejoice in them being different and able to lend themselves to the situation from different perspectives.

'[Talking about a picked lock]  "Nice girls shouldn't know how to do that sort of thing"

"My sister is a nice girl and she knows how to do all sorts of things."'

- The Reptile Room 

Secondly, even though the whole world is against them, they have each other's backs. Besides already suffering from so many misfortunes, people always judge the Baudelaires for being orphans, for being intelligent, for anything. In the midst of condescension they always celebrate each other's victories and don't let each person be too hard on themselves.

They are also realistic and always make me laugh when one of the adults say "when I was your age" and they say, "but we're all different ages". That's how I always feel, too.

Even though there is such a big age gap, going back to Sunny, the way that Violet and Klaus understand her is so remarkable to me. They go to lengths to listen to her, even though she doesn't speak in real words. They always convey her feelings to the adults with "what my sister is trying to say...". These are brilliant children and part of that is that they treat each other like they are capable to do what needs to happen.

It's been awhile since I read the books ( I mean, 2021 wasn't THAT long ago. But still. My mind is full with too many things) so this might be wrong but I remember the end of The Reptile Room being all about the Baudelaires saying at least we've got each other in the middle of this miserable time. And that's the best things about siblings. So don't fight each other, support each other, and don't let go.

“I think we'll always miss our parents. But I think we can miss them without being miserable all the time. After all, they wouldn't want us to be miserable.” 

- The Reptile Room 

And in The Wide Window?? How they are rearranging their gifts to make everyone happy even though that leaves Klaus the least happy. They are selfless when it comes to each other. And I've written about how Klaus is my darling, but the other two equally are! Which is why, in The Miserable Mill, they knew something was wrong. Other siblings who didn't know each other so thoroughly would be thrown off, but they stepped outside of their comfort zones to help each other. They know their strengths and when to imitate each other.

Fan art is my FAVORITE.

As Opposed to:

The Poes: A Series of Unfortunate Events 

Key characteristic: Selfishness.

Edgar and Albert are characters who only get a fraction of a chapter in the first ASoUE book, as opposed to siblings who get more "screen time", but I'm going to talk about them because they set an important standard to help us get to know the Baudelaires better.

In the midst of grief, the Baudelaires have to stay with the Poes. And Edgar and Albert are quite horrible. They complain about having to share with three children who lost everything in the world. I don't remember everything they say because it is not worth remembering, but it shows us a place of sneering and selfishness that contrasts the comfort the Baudelaires give each other.


A Favorite:

The Quagmires: A Series of Unfortunate Events 

Everything I said about fan art still holds up because this is glorious.

Key characteristic: Unbreakable bonds. 

I've seen things before that says there's a word for orphan, but no word for losing a child because there isn't a way to express that pain. Same for losing a sibling. The word that adults try to use is "twin", but that's completely wrong. Duncan and Isadora refuse to be called twins, and instead always refer to themselves as "triplets", because that's what they are, whether or not Quigley is there he won't be forgotten. This is a dark introduction to the Quagmires, but shows that they are not their name: they do not "give way underfoot" (the definition I looked up for "quagmire" in the New Oxford American Dictionary. I've lauded Lemony Snicket before about his naming skills.). Isadora and Duncan stand in Quigley's memory.

I love that Duncan and Isadora's strengths are so similar and yet so different. They both like to write, but Duncan is the journalist and Isadora is the poet. 

As rare as it is to see siblings in fiction, I feel like it is rarer still to see groups of siblings who are completely friends with each other. The Quagmires and Baudelaires carry how they interact with their own brother and sisters into their friendship with each other. It's beautiful in such an austere place.

The way they even sit to leave room for Quigley? *cries*

I keep accidentally calling Duncan "Dylan" due to him being played by Dylan Kingwell. I just need to say their name in the opposite order, Isadora and Duncan...

A Favorite:

The Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events and All the Wrong Questions

Key characteristic: Fighting for justice.

"...Snicket?" those of you who are unfamiliar with this series might say. "As in Lemony Snicket? The author?" Absolutely.


This is what sets the tone for these books, Lemony's narration and hints at his life being connected to all of this.

If you read ASoUE and thought, "but I want to know more about Lemony!", then All the Wrong Questions is the series for you. He is literally the main character in addition to the narrator. Does this answer questions about his family and upbringing? Not really. But the hints make me scream and shriek and everything. One of my favorite parts is the code phrase: "Give my regards to Jacques." which Lemony explains to mean one thing...and then also what it says. 

I think there are only one or two times that we see two of the Snickets interact, there is still such a strong bond between these siblings. They all lead such busy lives in their fight for justice and truth and being well read. Being on the run does not give time for family, but they don't forget each other. One tells the tales of woe of the others. A moment in book 7 nearly made me cry the last time because it is one of those sibling connections where the two characters aren't on the page at the same time, but are unbreakably together all the same.

Even though AtWQ does its best to not answer questions, you get little glimpses into Lemony's life because he'll remember waiting at a bus stop and playing Beethoven with his brother. And yes, I agree with his sister, it's inane, but it's also SO STINKING FUN. I love the phone calls, that however short they are, it is Lemony reaching out for comfort. I just realized that I've always assumed that Lemony is the middle child for some reason, but now I'm starting to think that maybe he's the youngest? He might be too elusive to ever say.

“I looked out the window at the dark and racing scenery and I thought of the city, where the train would eventually arrive. I hadn’t seen the city since my apprenticeship began, and for a moment I felt so homesick I had to stop and lean my head against the glass. Dear Kit, I thought. And then I said it out loud.

'I wish you were here.'"

- Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights? 

As Opposed to:

The Denouements: A Series of Unfortunate Events 

Key characteristic: Conflicting causes.

I LOVE the juxtaposition of the Denouements against the Snickets. The Snickets are all for fighting for the same cause no matter what the price and bearing that heavy burden together, while the Denouements are on different sides and use being identical to keep up the facade. Here it's something that is accepted and fought against at the same time, but you don't really see Frank and Ernest interacting, besides supposedly (aka seen through a telescope) arguing.

And that's reality. Sometimes you aren't on the same side as your siblings. "The schism has turned many siblings into enemies." Sometimes siblings can do terrible things, things that aren't noble. That doesn't mean that you don't love them, but love looks different.

A different set of siblings looks at loyalty despite morals, so Snicket covers a wide range for how families interact.

The whole question of "Are you Frank or Ernest?" is quite poignant.

I'm 100% sure in the show that the "give my regards to" line was inspired by All the Wrong Questions. And even though I hadn't read AtWQ at that point, I flipped out for completely different reasons. It was fabulous.

A Favorite:

The Bellerophons: All the Wrong Questions

Key characteristic: Teamwork

Because I couldn't just mention All the Wrong Questions once because I'm still not sure which series I like better.

The Bellerophons are the sole transportation in Stain'd-by-the-Sea, though neither of them are old enough to be driving a taxi. Their dad, the official driver, is incapable at the moment, so they use what they have: each other. I believe Squeak operates the gas and breaks while Pip steers. They will give you a ride for free if you give them a tip on what to read next. It's not an ideal childhood, working, but they do it with each other. They are champions of the world.

“It's hard when you're missing your family," Pip said, and started the motor. " You wake up every morning like someone took one of your legs.” 

- Shouldn't You Be in School? 

There are more siblings in Lemony Snicket's works, but this list is four of my favorites with two to contrast. My huge theory is that Zada and Zora in All the Wrong Questions are the two White-Faecd Women, but that's a conversation for another day. All together, Lemony Snicket writes about mourning and grief, but also how we shouldn't let go of our siblings because with them we can get through anything.

This is my entry for Hameltte's We Love Siblings Week! There are games and a giveaway and all kinds of fun things, so go check all the other posts out!

Do any of you have siblings? Does anyone else know Lemony Snicket? If you do, then I hope you enjoyed all the references I stuck in there because it was so fun to create! I haven't seen the movie version, only the series and read the books, so does anyone know if the movie represents siblings like this?

Which of the Baudelaires do you feel most like? Which Quagmire? In fact, which of any of these siblings are you most like? How do you act around your siblings?

Thanks for reading!

Chloe the MovieCritic


  1. I hadn't been too interested in these books, but you have convinced me to at least try them!

  2. "My sister is a nice girl and she knows how to do all sorts of things" this quote is iCoNIC, thank you for including it.
    As (I think) we've discussed before, these books really aren't my thing. But I have read the first two of the Series of Unfortunate Events, and the Baudelaire siblings truly are wonderful. And it's wonderful getting to vicariously enjoy them through this post. :) Siblings, as we know, are Just the Best.

  3. Okay, so as you probably know I know absolutely nothing about Series of Unfortunate Events or actually Lemony Snicket AT ALL but I still really enjoyed reading about all the sibling relationships! (And now I'm *slightly* tempted to read the books. But only *slightly*. :D)


To comment, or not to comment? That is the question. Whatever you decide, I would love to hear from you!! I am always open to suggestions, advice, and any other comments! Even if you don't agree with me, I would love to hear from you as long as you keep the comment respectful and on subject. And, please, no swearing. I love comments on old posts!!
My computer won't let me leave comments, so it might take a few days, but I will reply!

"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, where you stop your story." -Orson Welles