Injustice Influences

“Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire were intelligent children, and they were charming, and resourceful, and had pleasant facial features, but they were extremely unlucky, and most everything that happened to them was rife with misfortune, misery, and despair”A Bad Beginning 

One would be hard pressed to find a man less interested in happily-ever-afters than Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket).  Even when he was a child, his father claimed that, “if a book had a syrupy ending, he’d toss it aside—it drove him crazy!”  His disdain for “syrupy” travelled from his reading into his writing, where any syrup you find is at the very least ineffective cough syrup, but is more likely poisonous.

Handler’s books are full of imagination and out of this world circumstances, and yet they strike a chord of realism in young readers that many more “syrupy” books may not.  Handler put a lot of emphasis on subverting the idea fed to children that people get what they deserve—that the world is just.

In an interview with bwog, Handler explains how children that read his books are just beginning to become aware of injustice.  He gives the example of when perhaps for the first time a teacher says to a child, “I don’t care who started it! You’re both in trouble!” This is injustice that’s happening, and the child will realize it.  Handler states, “I think that you start to be aware of that when you’re young. And the books reflect this, so in some ways seem less fantastic than books that say, ‘And if you work hard you’ll be rewarded.’”


2 thoughts on “Injustice Influences

  1. courtneycalderon March 13, 2015 / 5:13 pm

    I remember growing up and hearing about all the uproar surrounding his novels. It’s interesting because when most people think of inspiration, they think of a positive source. With Handler, he used injustice as his inspiration. I read all these books in 6th grade. While they didn’t have a major impact on me, I can definitely see where he’s coming from. Children are going to be met with disappointment and injustice all their lives, so why not just expose them to it through literature. There was something about those treacherous stories that we loved as children. I think the unhappy endings were a breath of fresh air in a world full of fairy tales and and real-world problems. I think that sometimes, young people crave a little outlandish misery, and Lemony Snicket certainly delivered.


  2. jesslangone March 14, 2015 / 1:07 am

    Writing is a way for people to come to terms with things that are happening in the world. Injustice is a huge part of that. Terrible things happen all the time, and it is difficult for people to reason with why.

    I read Handler’s books as a child, and they were entertaining to me, but I think they were also one of my first introductions to that notion of injustice. I can remember my despair for the Baudelaire orphans, always wishing them to have a happy ending. I can also remember the instances of joy they experienced during their misfortune. That coupled with the theme of injustice give these books appeal to basic human nature and help us understand the world we live in.

    I think that while injustice may be inspiration for these novels, suffering and the human condition are common inspirations for many writers. I know that these things are always present in the back of my mind when I am writing any sort of fiction.


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