The Wide Window

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

The Wide Window is a children's novel and the third novel in the book 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 (Mrs. Anwhistle), who lives on a house overlooking Lake Lachrymose.


Plot summary

The taxi pulls up a steep hill to a house that sits off the side of the cliff, held there by spidery, metal-looking stilts, were the orphans Sunny Klaus and Violet meet their new guardian, Aunt Josephine Anwhistle. Although she is a kind old woman, she is frightened by many things. Ever since her husband, Ike, died in Lake Lachrymose after being eaten by the Lachrymose Leeches, she has developed many irrational fears about the lake and her own possessions. She won't touch the phone, the radiator, the refrigerator, the oven, or even the doorknobs. She also has a terrible fear of realtors. Aunt Josephine loves grammar and possesses an enormous library on the subject in her home. The room containing her library has an enormous window (after which The Wide Window is named), which overlooks the lake.

After the Baudelaires tell Aunt Josephine that Hurricane Herman is coming, the children and their new guardian head down to town to obtain food and other household supplies. There they come across "Captain Sham," Count Olaf in disguise. He tells them that he is the owner of a boat rental company and lost his leg after it was eaten by the Lachrymose Leeches. The children warn Aunt Josephine, but they cannot prove "Sham" is Olaf in disguise, since he has a wooden leg where the ankle bearing his tattoo of an eye should be. Furthermore, Aunt Josephine finds Captain Sham charming, and won't listen to the Baudelaires, insisting that his (fake) business card is proof enough of his identity. Later that night, the children are awakened by a loud crash, and they rush to the library to find the window broken and their aunt's suicide note.

The three siblings are shocked because the note says that the children's new guardian will be Captain Sham. Klaus becomes suspicious because it is filled with spelling and grammatical errors, not something Aunt Josephine would have done. They decide that Captain Sham is behind it and call Mr. Poe using the telephone. Mr. Poe arrives, but they cannot prove their suspicions, as the note is written in Josephine's hand writing. While Mr. Poe and Sham are discussing matters at The Anxious Clown, the children purposefully start an allergic reaction with the peppermints Mr. Poe had given them, and escape back to the house. By this time, Hurricane Herman is already arriving on Lake Lachrymose. At the house, Klaus discovers that all the spelling and grammar mistakes in the note form an encoded message, the words "Curdled Cave", presumably a cave somewhere on the shore of Lake Lachrymose. As the children search frantically for a map of the lake, one of the stilts that supports Aunt Josephine's house is struck by lightning, and the house begins to slide down the cliff. After narrowly escaping with their lives, the Baudelaires watch as Aunt Josephine's house crumbles and falls to the depths of Lake Lachrymose.

The Baudelaires hurry down to the docks to steal a boat from Captain Sham's rental company, but the rental company is being guarded by one of Count Olaf's henchmen, the one who looks like neither a man nor a woman. Sunny outsmarts it, and the children manage to sail across Lake Lachrymose to Curdled Cave, where they find Aunt Josephine hiding. Aunt Josephine claims that Sham forced her to write the note, but rather than actually committing suicide, she threw a chair through the window and went into hiding, leaving only the coded suicide note behind.

The Baudelaires convince her to join them, but as they're sailing back across the lake, Lachrymose Leeches attack. The children are puzzled, since they haven't consumed any food within the last hour (The leeches are blind and attack only if they smell food) but Aunt Josephine admits to having eaten a banana shortly before the Baudelaires arrived. The leeches ram their boat and devour it as it fills up with water. Violet successfully invents a signal for help, and Captain Sham rescues them in another boat just when the boat sinks in the water. Josephine pleads with Sham to spare her life, offering to give him the Baudelaires and promising to go far away and never tell anyone. Josephine almost convinces Sham to let her do so, but Sham is angered when she fusses over a trivial grammatical error in his speech. Instead, Sham pushes her in the water, where it is implied that she is devoured by the leeches, and takes the children with him back to Damocles Dock.

Back at the docks, Mr. Poe is about to give the children to Sham when Sunny bites into Sham's fake wooden leg, breaking it off. Sham claims that his leg has miraculously regenerated, but Mr. Poe has already seen the tattoo of an eye on Olaf's ankle. Having been once more unmasked, Olaf flees with his associate before the children and Mr. Poe can chase after them.


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

Cultural references and literary allusions

  • The name Damocles Dock, which presumably alludes to the legendary Greek figure Damocles who had a sword dangling over his head. Note in the picture in the front of the book it shows the three Baudelaires standing on Damocles dock. In the archway at the entrance to the dock is a sword dangling over their head.
  • 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. The Baudelaire's guardian Aunt Josephine is mouse-like because she is afraid of everything (timid as a mouse). Also in the short story, Josephine's music sounds like whistling if heard from the wrong angle, which may be a reference 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 names Ike and Josephine may refer to Tropical Storm Ike and Hurricane Josephine.
  • 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


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]


See also


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