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The Bad Beginning

From Academic Kids

The Bad Beginning is the first novel in the book series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.

Summary

In the book, the three Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny are relaxing at Briny Beach, when a family friend and constant cougher, Mr. Poe comes to tell them their parents died in a terrible fire that destroyed their entire home and all of their possessions.

They live with Mr. Poe and his family for a few weeks, while Mr. Poe finds a suitable guardian for them. He finally finds Count Olaf who is either their "third cousin four times removed" or "fourth cousin three times removed."

But Count Olaf turns out to be anything but a suitable guardian. He turns out to be a greedy man who only wants to Baudelaire fortune. From day one, he forces them to do all the chores, shopping, and everything else, leaving the demands for the day listed on a piece of paper, signed with an eye. He slaps Klaus across the face for stating that the Baudelaire fortune isn't to be used until Violet is of age.

One night, he forces the children to cook dinner for he and his terrible theatre troupe. The Baudelaires, with the help of their kindly neighbor, Justice Strauss prepare puttanesca pasta. However, Count Olaf and his troupe are not happy, as they wanted roast beef. He and his troupe then decide to drink until they don't care if it is roast beef or not.

The next morning, Count Olaf apologises for being "standoffish," and wishes for the Baudelaires to be a part of a play he and his troupe are performing, The Marvelous Marriage by Al Funcoot. He also specifically requests that Violet play his bride, and tells them that Justice Strauss will play the judge that marries the happy couple. The Baudelaires suspect he is up to something, so they read as many law books as they can find in Justice Strauss's library. The hook-handed man comes to retrieve them, and Klaus sneaks a book on nuptial law to Olaf's house.

Up all night reading, Klaus discovers Olaf's plan. ("The laws of marriage in this community are very simple. The bride must say 'I do' in the presence of a judge, and sign a legal document. Girls under 18 may marry if the have the permission of a parent or legal guardian.") He is going to marry Violet for real to get the fortune! When Klaus discovers this, however, his baby sister Sunny has already been kidnapped, and is hanging high above the ground in a bird cage, as Olaf shows them in the morning. The Baudelaires have no choice but to agree to participate.

That night, Violet invents a grappling hook, in order to go comfort her sister dangling from the tower room. She manages to get up to the top of the tower, but the grappling hook caught onto another hook -- one owned by the hook-handed man! He forces the Baudeliares to stay there until the play.

The time for the play arrives, and everyone is scrambling around getting ready. During the marriage scene, Violet follows instructions, and as soon it is over, Olaf announces that he is now married to Violet, and there is no reason to continue the play. The entire audience is shocked, but as soon as Sunny is released from her cage, Violet reveals that she did not sign the document in her own hand, as she used her left hand, when she is actually right-handed. Olaf shuts off the lights and tells Violet he will get the fortune and disappears.

Everyone is overjoyed. Count Olaf got away, but his plot was foiled. The Baudelaire children can live with Justice Strauss and have happy lives -- not. Mr. Poe tells them they must live with a relative, so they are driven away from the theatre, crying, and unhappy, to the next chapter of their unfortunate lives.

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