The secrets are uncovered and the mysterious and intriguing tale comes to a close as we reach the final book in Lemony Snicket’s All the Wrong Questions; namely, “Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?” As I forewarned you multiple times through this journey, Snicket’s tale does not have a truly happy ending. Although it may very well answer most of the primary questions and although it may bring an end to the villain’s villainy, it is not a very satisfactory close. This is the case in most of Lemony Snicket’s novels, and it’s not because of poor writing or anything. I still think that it is an excellent series of books, worth reading, even with the ending. So, with that out of the way, let us begin.
Before we continue, be sure to read my other posts on the previous books in this series: “Who Could That Be at This Hour?”, “When Did You See Her Last?”, and “Shouldn’t You Be in School?”
Warning: The Following May Contain Spoilers
Qwerty Dashiell, the librarian of Stain’d by the Sea is about to be shipped off to prison upon the false accusation that he committed arson multiple times. Lemony Snicket intends to save the innocent librarian from his imminent fate, so in the middle of the night he sneaks out, intending to board the train on which the prisoners are to be shipped. Unfortunately, this attempt is thwarted when he can’t get a ticket. The train pulls out, but he doesn’t give up. He hires the only taxi in town, manned by two of his nearest associates, and hitches a ride on the train.
Meanwhile, S. Theodora Markson—Snicket’s mentor—is awaiting a report from a certain VFD agent who had been hiding in the town the whole time, keeping an eye on Snicket and Theodora’s progress. Lemony Snicket had followed her to the train station, and he is quite curious as to what her intentions are, boarding the train.
More peculiarities and odd coincidences present themselves after Lemony has boarded the train. Onboard, he encounters Moxie Mallahan, his bright journalist friend who he encountered on his first day in town. She also followed a separate trail of clues and investigations leading back to the train. Many other friends were found, along the way, as well as old enemies. Good people and bad people alike were taking the same train to the city, which told them something big was about to happen. Everything becomes much clearer when it is discovered that Hangfire was also on the train.
The story continues, and I highly suggest you read it. There are investigations, lies, trickery, murder, and we finally come to understand more about the curious mythical beast of Stain’d by the Sea, the Bombinating Beast, and what it has to do with the Inhumane Society and Hangfire’s sinister plans.
And now, I’d like to discuss a certain theme introduced in this story; one that the author has a strong opinion about. He also presents this in his more well-known series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. This is his belief that there is no right or wrong. Just human opinion.
This is a belief widely accepted around the world. People think that right and wrong are based on perspective, not solid universal commandments. This makes might make sense from an atheistic stance as right and wrong are defined by laws and guidelines, and laws and guidelines must be set in place by a higher power. However, in the atheist’s mind, there is no higher being than man. Then how is it that man went from murder and thievery and adultery, and greed all the way to order and rules and stability all on its own? Well, mankind wasn’t alone.
Our Creator, the higher Being that atheists lack, laid out rules for us; the moral law implanted in our minds. Everyone born has a basic understanding of right and wrong. If you tell a child not to do something, they know very well that it’s wrong to do that, although they may choose to completely ignore the command. Even in the most isolated, primitive parts of the world, there is some understanding of right and wrong. Murder and stealing are looked down upon no matter where you are in the world.
Even those who believe there is no right and wrong will consider it wrong if you acted in such a way that inconvenienced them. Lemony Snicket makes his claims, but throughout his writing is proof of the line between good and evil. He even works hard to stop bullying. Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong, whether they like to admit it or not. Sin is certainly convenient, and we choose to go toward it. If there’s no definition of wrong, it makes one feel excused and helps them to shut away the guilt.
So there you go. A book review and a theology lesson. I feel like a did very badly at the latter and didn’t prove my point sufficiently, but it’s a start. I’ve never written a theological post before.
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One thought on “Matters Of Snicket — The End”
I don’t typically comment on things, (professional lurker here) but as a self-proclaimed hardcore Snicket fan I felt the urge to come down here and say a couple things. First off, these have been quite fun to read. Very enjoyable revisit to ATWQ. Thanks for that.
Now for the bulk of the comment here. Spoilers ahead for A Series Of Unfortunate Events.
So, first of all, I’d like to mention that it’s worth noting that Daniel Handler, the man behind the character of Lemony Snicket isn’t an atheist, he’s actually Jewish. This is actually a lot more prevalent in Unfortunate Events than in Wrong Questions, but if you’re looking, it’s there. (Most obviously in the repetitive, formulaic nature of the series, following a people going through hardship after hardship, not unlike the Jewish people. Also detectable in the constant recapitulation of events, something the Jews are known for. Telling their story over and over.) That said, I’m turning my attention now to how you describe the theme that Snicket lays out, saying that it’s the idea that there is no right or wrong. It’s been a while since I’ve read ATWQ, so my knowledge of it is a bit more shaky than that of ASoUE, so please do pardon my focus on the latter more, but I don’t necessarily think that the themes are that there’s no right or wrong, it’s that *people* aren’t necessarily good or bad. The idea that people can do right or wrong things, but you can’t just point at someone and say, “Oh, he’s a good man” or “He’s despicable,” because you don’t know what kinds of skeletons they have in their closet. By the end of the series, the Baudelaires have, at least once, done everything Count Olaf has done. To quote The Grim Grotto, “People aren’t either wicked or noble. They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.”
I could just be making things up, but to me it feels as if *that* is the theme that Snicket lays out. Once again, it’s been a while since I’ve read ATWQ, so there could be some counterpoints there that I’m forgetting, but if I remember correctly, Ellington Feint would seem to support this. At the end of the day, you can’t really call her a protagonist, but you can’t really call her an antagonist either.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying that’s a perfect assessment of the world either, because we know that there is an absolute good and there was an absolutely good person in the form of Christ, and there are people in this world who have done truly, absolutely awful, horrible things, but I wouldn’t be lying if I said I didn’t think there was some level of truth to it. People often meld to fit the circumstances they find themselves in, and these changes can be for good or bad.
That said, as mentioned above, this was a fun little article series to read through, and I thank you for it.
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