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Book Review: The End by Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler

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In taking a closer look at The End, after catching up on the entire Series of Unfortunate Events books, it has become clear to me exactly why The End ended as it did. Lemony Snicket had been foreshadowing this, and yet both adults and children have been (in their opinion) let down. The rather disappointing thing is that none of these critics has learned one thing from Lemony. For the answers to The End were always there, from The Bad Beginning to The End.

We have taught our children for years that happy endings can happen. It is expected in a book series that is geared towards children that all their questions will be answered and all their dreams (lived out through the characters) will become reality. However, this is not life. This is not truth. If any lesson can be taught by reading The End, and the entire series, this is it. Life truly is a series of unfortunate or fortunate events, depending on what you make of them. Once you realize that, you can move on and actually experience life.

The End is not truly the end, and yet it is The End. That may seem confusing, but if you read the book, and take the lessons Lemony and the Baudelaires have taught you throughout the series, you should understand exactly what is meant. There are many questions which go unanswered. How many of life’s questions go unanswered?

I will not go into the details of what we learn and what we do not learn, because I do not wish to spoil the book. However, as cryptic as I may be in my review, you will find this novel equally cryptic and you may not be able to absorb or understand what I am saying. You may not be able to absorb what Lemony Snicket is saying, or how the book truly ends right away.

The End requires some deep conversation between parents and children. Children who have trouble thinking figuratively may not get it, even if their parent explains it to them. However, as long as they understand the initial message they will begin to understand their own life as much as they understand the life of the Baudelaires.

Plotting The End

In the beginning of The End, we meet the Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, in a boat with Count Olaf. The four have escaped from a fire at the Hotel Denouement. There, it is believed the Baudelaire children deliberately set fire to the hotel, killing members of the secret group, VFD.

Certain of their impending arrest, the Baudelaires drop off into a boat from one of the hotel balconies. The boat has no steering or motor capabilities. The wind and the makeshift paddles the Baudelaires use act as their guide as they head out into the middle of the ocean.

After some time, and too many meals of canned beans (courtesy of chef Sunny), the Baudelaires and the evil Count are trapped in a storm that rips apart their boat. They end up shipwrecked on an island, where all sorts of things happen, and life passes by. The Baudelaires have little contact with civilization. No one truly knows where they are, and so the Baudelaires must make do with what washes ashore, and what they have.

Some questions are answered outright, such as what happens to Count Olaf and where their friend Kit is. These answers may surprise even the most devout Series of Unfortunate Events fan. However, the bittersweet ending in The End for these characters brought forth a new beginning. Without such a beginning, there would be no end or no beginning. There would be no tales to tell of the Baudelaires. The End would simply not exist, and yet it does.

A Closer Analysis

The End is only The End if you want it to be The End. Most people, not even adults, will notice the significance of The End, nor will they understand the purpose of its inception. If you use deductive reasoning you can find out exactly who the baby is, why Lemony Snicket wrote the books, and whether the Baudelaires' parents really are alive.

You must realize that The End is not going to end the Baudelaires' lives nor was the first book, The Bad Beginning, truly the beginning of it. As Lemony Snicket said himself, “but it cannot be said that The End contains the end of the Baudelaires' story anymore than The Bad Beginning contained its beginning.” – The End pg. 287.

We might even say that the world is always in medias res — a Latin          phrase that means in the midst of things or in the middle of a narrative — and that it is impossible to solve any mystery, or find the root of any trouble, and so the end is really the middle of the story, as many people in this history will live long past the close of chapter thirteen, or even the beginning of the story, as a new child arrives in the world at the chapter’s close. – The End pg. 289.

True fans of Lemony Snicket are not seeing exactly what the End means. If all the questions were answered, there would be no more. The End would really be the end, and yet it isn’t the end, or at least it gives readers a chance to make The End their own.

No matter how this book ended, there would be those who did not like the ending. If the End implied the end of all, that meant everyone died and there was nothing left to tell but the End, because everything truly did end. However, if the children were saved from the island, reunited with their parents who did not really die, and they rode off into the sunset, fans would not be satisfied.

The ending would be cliché and unbefitting of the end of A Series of Unfortunate Events. The books would be false, as the series of unfortunate events actually was a series of events leading up to a happily ever after.

The End of the Review of the The End

In the end, The End is a great book, and perhaps the most poetic of all the Snicket books (written by Daniel Handler). When reading this book, you will enjoy it only if you truly get the meaning behind the words. Do not read this book as you would any other book in this series.

The End is the beginning of a new adventure for the Baudelaires. Treat it as such and you will enjoy the ride. Sure, it would be nice to know the answers to all of the questions Lemony Snicket laid out throughout the series. It would also be nice to know all of the mysteries of the Earth. These questions may go unanswered forever, and if you can accept that then you have accepted The End, not as the end, but as the beginning of The End and the end of the beginning. 

The End.

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About Dominick Evans

  • http://blogcritics.org/author.php?author=Bonnie Bonnie

    Dominick, I think that’s an interesting take on TSOUE. Maybe the series always was intended as a didactic tool (I mean, look at those word definitions!) and those of us who were disappointed in the ending simply failed to hold that in mind. Still, from a narrative point of view, I didn’t find The End quite as satisfying as I would have hoped, even though I didn’t expect all the answers.

  • http://www.literaryillusions.com Dominick Evans

    Bonnie,

    I do not think the End was supposed to be bittersweet or satisfying. It was meant to make you think and wonder. It’s called A Series of Unfortunate Events…and the Unfortunate End…truly was Unfortunate….much like life…all the answers were not there and not everything was sunshine and roses.

    I liked it personally. I thought it was actually quite poetic.

    Cheers,
    Dominick

  • http://www.gpb-katie.blogspot.com Katie McNeill

    I haven’t read this one yet, I’m still only about half way through the series. But I am looking forward to ‘The End’ even if it really isn’t the end.

    Thanks for the review! I enjoyed it!

  • Unknown?

    I was personally disappointed in The End. Everything Lemony Snicket built up from book one; every year buying the newest book the day it comes out, reading it in a day and having to wait another year in hope that some questions would be answered; all the plots piling ontop of each other- none of this was resolved in the end. I don’t ask for all of the answers, but atleast finish the story. It was as if the first 12 books were a waste of time to read. All of the questions didn’t need to be answered, because you always want to let your audience answer some questions themselves and have questions after a book, but atleast tie together the major plots- the Quagmires, VFD, Sugar Bowl, Olaf and Orphans, and Orphans returning to city and Mr. Poe. After reading the book, reflect it, and think to yourself if Snicket could have accomplished the same ending with only a few pages rather than a full pontless story. The book itself was not bad but the end of The End was disappointing, so i give the story a 4/5 and the end of The End a 0. A very bad way to end my favorite series of books.

  • Alex Wayne

    I love the end of THE END. I was blown away when i found out Beatrice, the love of the narrator, was actually the mother of the three Baudelaires. That would mean that the narrator was the father of the children. When i found out it said Beatrice on the side of the boat, i didn’t think it mattered at first. After i thought about it, though, I realized that it could mean that the boat originally belonged to the Baudelaire’s parents. This means they could have left that island on that same boat. Whew, I’m done analyzing the end of THE END.

  • pirate

    actually alex, the narrator is not the baudelaires father. beatrice got married to bertrand, the father, instead of lemony, and that is why he is heartbroken. that book was kind of disappointing.

  • http://mikesrule.blogspot.com/ Mikep

    While I agree that readers of The End are complaining for the wrong reasons (Lemony does tell us over and over NOT to read the books or expect anything nice), I think you are wrong about using deductive reasoning to figure everything out at the end.

    In the end, I think Handler writes The End to make his readers understand that fiction is just words, not truths. He loves to play with words.

    If the words have any meaning at all, Handler expects us to know that he is not responsible for making the meaning. Readers make meaning out of words that writers juxtapose in interesting and unusual ways.

    Why do you suppose Lemony continuously defines his words for us? (And do you feel his definitions are ever correct?)

    Or how do the children ever “understand” those nonsense words of their little sister? Sometimes they seem to be puns, but not everytime. She seems to have her own language–whatever a language is.

    My favorite part of The End is the endless sentence Handler writes to define “in the dark.” It is not a nonsense sentence at all, but in the end, does it tell us anything? Or leave us “in the dark”?

    So anyone trying to figure out who Beatrice is at the end, is probably just the victim of another paradoxical joke by Lemony Snicket.

  • katie luke

    i just finished reading THE END like practically like two seconds ago and i was like”ummmm…sure…i dont get it” so i turned on my computer and was like ok i got to figure this out.so just someone tell me this,who the heck is beatrice,i have a very strong feeling she is there mother,and seeing what i have read so far, im right.but how did lemony come into all of this? how does he tie in here? and how did he die,cuz it syas that the parents name there children after someone who dies,its a custom remeber,and they said that theyd name violet lemony if she was a boy, but how did he die is what im asking,and who is he really( well david of course) but i mean in his role in the story.

    also i was sorta miffed that kit died and that friday wouldnt take the apple,becasue i thougt,even though she was on “olaf-land”;)since she was born,that she seeemed that she was different from the other islanders and she had something that we should have known about her and i wanted to find what it was.

    also what happened to the sugar bowl? that was super important in the 12 book and then it seemed that it didnt even exsist in the thirteenth book.

    i know that all questions cant be answered in this book or it would practically have to surpass the number of pages in all the harry potter books,but could he just answer the ones that have almost been the major plot of the books?

    anybody agree?

  • katie luke

    by the way,happy new year!

  • Sereth

    It wasn’t so much the dissatisfying-ness of the end of The End that got me. I thought it was just a horrendous book. The metaphors were exaggerated far beyond necessity in contrast to his past books. Before, they were appropriately brief and interesting. In The End, I had to skip pages so I could see the story progress. I was sad to find out that there was not much other content in the book.

  • V.M.F.

    i love the series of unfortunate events book series. I use to come home from school in 5th grade with one of Lemony’s books, and return it the next morning. They are truly addicting,and leave you wandering,and wanting more for the next book to come.

  • Durdana Khan

    i liked the end book but i wantd to know what the ? mark was and what the sugar bowl was but oh well i guess you cant have everything you want but i wasant that suprised by the ending because i read the whole set as often as i can i mean for me its not like a normal of books because i knew it would never end up as a fairy tale and there parents would not be dead just by finishing the first book but the last book was bittersweet

    Thanks Dominick

  • Durdana Khan

    it made me fink about them a lot

  • allan lawrence

    I was personally disappointed in The End. Not just because of all the important things that were left unanswered, but because of the narraration. Normally Snicket’s narraration isn’t much of a problem, but in this book I’m afraid it’s crossed the line. Most of the things Snicket talks about has very little relevance to the actual plot, and I find myself having to skip several pages just so I can continue reading the actual story. but the main plot was only OK this time.
    however the real main reason i’m disappointed is that many of the major plots in the series were simply left dangling – VFD, the Quagmires, and the Sugar Bowl. Handler could’ve at least put a closure on all of these things, rather than simply ignore everything and end the series just like that. AT LEAST confirm what exactly was inside the Sugar Bowl or what happened to the Quagmires. Overall, the book is a horrible ending to the series. He might as well have just stopped at the Penultimate Peril.

  • kreasan narrainsamy

    whats the point of having the thirteenth book anyway. Everythig was nonsense, you could have just written that Kit had a baby, Olaf died and Beatrice was the Bouldalaires mother. Throughout the other twelve books I was eager to find out what happened to the Quagmires, who the man with a beard and no hair and the woman with hair but no beard was, V.F.D and what was in the sugar bowl. I think the book is stupid and I havn’t even read it yet. By the way, what happened to everyone in the hotel (Jerome, Esme, Carmelita, Charles, Sir, Vise princable Nero…)

  • unknown

    i think it was a gd ending coz its the type of thing you would expect from lemony

  • Ammy

    Personally, I loved this book. By far my favorite in the series.
    The whole point of SOUE is to teach readers both the importance and the uselessness of secrets-and Lemony/Daniel does it in magnificent fashion, by answering the questions that we didn’t ask.
    The vital lesson in the series is in The End-it’s the section where the author is explaining the phrase ‘in the dark’.
    If there were no mysteries, there would be no story. If there were no secrets, there would be no struggle, no hardship-and no world.

    In a roundabout way, Snicket tells us exactly what is in the sugar bowl and what the ? is. The ? is the living symbol of all the secrets in the world. The sugar bowl (in my belief) contains the seeds of the horseradish-apple tree, and thus, the seeds of sin. I don’t think Count Olaf or anyone except the author really knew what was inside the sugar bowl; they had their own ideas of what it might be, and did everything possible to try and find out.

    By the way-the author is not the children’s father. He was a lover of their mom, and he feels he owes it to her memory