The Wide Window

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The Wide Window
The Wide Window USA.PNG
First edition cover
Author Lemony Snicket (pen name of Daniel Handler)
Illustrator Brett Helquist
Cover artist Brett Helquist
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series A Series of Unfortunate Events
Genre Gothic fiction
Absurdist fiction
Steampunk
Mystery
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
February 25, 2000
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 214
ISBN 0-06-440768-3
OCLC 41355668
Fic 21
LC Class PZ7.S6795 Wi 2000
Preceded by The Reptile Room
Followed by The Miserable Mill

The Wide Window is the third in the children's novel series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It was later released in paperback under the name The Wide Window; or, Disappearance! In The Wide Window, the Baudelaire orphans are sent to live with their third guardian, Aunt Josephine, who lives on a house overlooking Lake Lachrymose.

Plot summary[edit]

The book begins with Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire sitting at Damocles Dock in the town of Lake Lachrymose, which lies next to the lake with the same name. Mr. Poe, the manager of their estate, arranges a taxi to drive the Baudelaire's to the top of a very high hill where their new home awaits. As the taxi pulls up to the hilltop, the orphans find themselves at a house at the edge of a cliff supported by wooden beams.

Inside, they find their new guardian waiting for them, Aunt Josephine Anwhistle. Although she is a kind woman, she is very peculiar in that she has practically every fear there could be. She is afraid of almost every possession in her own home. Within Aunt Josephine's house is a library filled only with grammar books and a large window (The Wide Window) at the far end of the room, which offers a spectacular view of Lake Lachrymose. It is here where Aunt Josephine recounts her tale of her last day on the shores of the lake with her husband, Ike Anwhistle, and how he met his end due to the carnivorous Lachrymose Leeches which have the ability to smell food on a human if he or she does not wait long enough before going into the water.

The following day, the children tell Aunt Josephine of Hurricane Herman's approach. While gathering supplies for the storm, they encounter Count Olaf at the grocery store, disguised as a sailor named Captain Sham. The three children attempt to warn their new guardian about Captain Sham's true identity, but Aunt Josephine does not believe them due to Sham's charm and use of a peg leg to hide his tattoo of an eye on his left ankle.

Later that evening, Aunt Josephine receives a phone call from Captain Sham, and she then sends the children away. After what seems like hours, the children are awakened by a loud crash. Upon searching the house for any trace of Aunt Josephine, the Baudelaires come to the library where they find a suicide note from their aunt and discover that the window had been smashed. Although filled with grammar mistakes the children know Aunt Josephine would never have made, the note says that Captain Sham is to be their new guardian. The children then conclude that Count Olaf is behind it and decide to call Mr. Poe.

Mr. Poe informs the children that like him or not, Captain Sham is to be their new guardian per Josephine's last will and testament written in the note. Captain Sham, upon hearing the news from Mr. Poe, offers to take he and the three children to lunch at a local restaurant, The Anxious Clown. Needing more time to find the truth behind Aunt Josephine's death and strangely written note, Violet decides to take drastic action and gives her siblings a peppermint, which the children are terribly allergic to. Almost immediately, the children break out in hives and their tongues swell, causing Mr. Poe to allow them to go back up to Aunt Josephine's house.

As they reach the hilltop, the effects of Hurricane Herman could already be felt, as rain had started to fall and the wind began picking up. While Violet and Sunny attempt to take a baking soda bath to relieve their itchy hives, Klaus returns to the library to see if he could make out anything about Aunt Josephine's note. As his sisters return to his side, Klaus reveals that Aunt Josephine had purposefully written the note to hide a message reading "Curdled Cave". They conclude that Aunt Josephine is in fact not dead, merely hiding.

Upon this discovery, however, the hurricane had reached its peak. The children hurry to find a map to locate Curdled Cave and resolve to look under Aunt Josephine's bed; as she had told them she had hidden anything to do with Lake Lachrymose away after Ike died. After finding an atlas of Lake Lachrymose, a bolt of lightning strikes one of the many wooden supports holding Aunt Josephine's house up on the cliffside. After a narrow escape, the Baudelaires watch as the house is ripped from the side of the cliff and falls into the lake below.

The children then hurry to the docks to find Fickle Ferry shut down due to the hurricane. Needing to get across Lake Lachrymose to Curdled Cave, the children decide to take a sailboat from Captain Sham. The gates to the docks are locked, however, and the keys are in the hand of the sleeping henchmen of indeterminant gender inside a shack by the gate. While Klaus and Violet attempt to make a plan, Sunny goes in to steal the keys from the Enormous Androgynous Person and succeeds. After a few moments however, the henchman comes lumbering out the door and grabs Violet and Sunny while Klaus is fumbling with the keys trying to open the gate. The obese henchman then picks up Klaus with his mouth and begins walking back to the shack. However, he trips over the atlas of Lake Lachyrmose and this gives the Baudelaires enough time to escape and steal a sailboat. They sail out through Hurricane Herman to Curdled Cave where they find Aunt Josephine. She tells the children that Count Olaf made her write the note, but instead of killing herself, left the message and threw a footstool through the window to give the appearance that she'd committed suicide. The Baudelaires try to convince her to sail with them back to town to tell Mr. Poe what had happened, but she refuses. Klaus points out to her that the cave is for sale, and realtors would surely come to see it. This is enough for Josephine to agree, her fear of realtors overpowering her fear of Count Olaf.

After sailing to the center of the vast lake, they are attacked by the Lachrymose Leeches. Aunt Josephine had regretted to point out that she had eaten a banana shortly before the children had arrived, causing the leeches to attack due to the scent of food. The leeches immediately begin to eat away at the boat attempting to get to Josephine. Violet creates a signal to help catch the attention of another boat to rescue them from the swarming leeches. The signal does attract the attention of one sailor on the water, Count Olaf. He allows the children and their aunt aboard his sailboat, just as theirs sinks from the leeches onslaught. Josephine then pleads with Olaf to allow her to live and that she will go far away and let him keep the Baudelaires. When Aunt Josephine corrects a slip of grammar on Olaf's part, he throws her into the water and sails the boat back to the dock, leaving Josephine to fend for herself against the leeches.

When they arrive back at the docks, Mr. Poe is just fixing to hand the children over to Captain Sham when Sunny bites into his fake wooden leg breaking it in half, revealing his tattoo and real leg beneath. Olaf then locks the gates to Damocles Dock and once again escapes with his assistant and leaves the Baudelaire children searching for someone else to care for them.

Foreshadows[edit]

  • On the last picture, there is a sign decorated with two eyes, foreshadowing the sequel The Miserable Mill.

Cultural references and literary allusions[edit]

  • The name Damocles Dock presumably alludes to the legendary Greek figure Damocles who had a sword dangling over his head. The picture at the beginning of the book shows the three Baudelaires standing on Damocles dock. In the archway at the entrance to the dock is a sword dangling over their heads.
  • In the previous book of the series, the endnote references the Café Kafka, a reference to the Austrian-Hungarian author Franz Kafka. One of Kafka's short stories, "Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk", features Josephine, the only mouse that can sing. In the short story, Josephine's music sounds like whistling if heard from the wrong angle, which may be a reference[original research?] to Aunt Josephine's late husband's ability to whistle with crackers in his mouth (along with the Baudelaire orphans' mother). Josephine's last name was Anwhistle making her husband Ike Anwhistle ("I can whistle").
  • The name of the hurricane is "Hurricane Herman." This may be a reference to Herman Melville.
  • Lachrymose (Lachrymose Lake) means "given to or causing tears".

Special editions[edit]

Disappearance![edit]

A Series of Unfortunate Events No.3: The Wide Window or, Disappearance![1] is a paperback re-release of The Wide Window, designed to mimic Victorian penny dreadfuls. It was released on September 4, 2007.[2] The book includes seven new illustrations, and the third part of a serial supplement entitled The Cornucopian Cavalcade, which features a 13-part comic by Michael Kupperman entitled The Spoily Brats, an advice column written by Lemony Snicket, and, as in The Bad Beginning or, Orphans! and The Reptile Room or, Murder!, (the final) part of a story by Stephen Leacock entitled Q: A Psychic Pstory of the Psupernatural.[3] This edition was the last of the paperback rereleases of the series - there hasn't been anymore of these as of this edit for unknown reasons.

Translations[edit]

The French version, "Ouragan Sur Le Lac," translates to "Hurricane on the Lake."

See also[edit]

References[edit]