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.