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 States
Language English
Series A Series of Unfortunate Events
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]

Shortly after the events of The Reptile Room, Mr. Poe puts the Baudelaire orphans, Klaus, Sunny and Violet under the care of Aunt Josephine, who lives in a house atop a hill overlooking Lake Lachrymose, a lake so large that hurricanes have occurred in that area. Aunt Josephine, despite being a good-hearted elder, lives an unusual lifestyle of having phobias of almost everything from cooking food to her welcome mat.

While helping Aunt Josephine with shopping in the grocery store, Violet literally runs into a sailor named "Captain Sham", who she concludes is secretly Count Olaf in disguise. Aunt Josephine declines to believe this due to Captain Sham's apparently charming personality. That night, the children hear a crash and find out that their new guardian had jumped out of the Wide Window that overlooks Lake Lachrymose, and that before doing so left a note for them informing them that Captain Sham will be their new guardian.

Despite relating their suspicions to Mr. Poe that the note was a forgery by Count Olaf, he again refuses to believe them, thus they are forced to have dinner with Mr. Poe and Count Olaf at a cheap and grimy restaurant called the Anxious Clown. Needing a distraction to come up with a strategy, Violet puts peppermints in her own food and that of Klaus and Sunny. Allergic, they break into hives, forcing Count Olaf to allow them to go back to their aunt's house. Klaus shows them how Aunt Josephine had written the note, due to the handwriting, but purposely made grammar mistakes to make a hidden message, which are the two words 'Curdled Cave'. Once they finish the note, Hurricane Herman hits and the house begins to fall apart into the lake. The Wide Window shatters and plunges into the lake. They retreat to the front of the house when that part of the house falls into the lake.

With this information, the Baudelaire orphans travel by foot to Captain Sham's boat store near Lake Lachrymose to steal a boat to get to Curdled Cave while another hurricane strikes. Upon arriving at Captain Sham's store for boats, they encounter one of Count Olaf's henchmen, a large person of undetermined gender whom they encountered in the first book as well. After Sunny steals the keys to the boats, the henchman suddenly wakes up but fails to capture them, so the children are able to sail to the cave. They finally endure the storm and reach the Curdled Cave, where Aunt Josephine reveals that Count Olaf forced her to write the note, and he had simply broken the Wide Window to cause them to believe that she had committed suicide.

While traveling back, Lachrymose leeches attempt to suck their blood due to smelling food in Aunt Josephine's stomach since she ate a banana under the one hour limit. They are able to send a signal for help, but only Count Olaf arrives in a ship. After leaving Aunt Josephine to be eaten by the leeches, he brings the children back to the house, where Sunny is able to prove that he was Count Olaf to Mr. Poe by ripping off Count Olaf's fake wooden peg to reveal his eye tattoo underneath. He and his henchperson escape and lock the Baudelaire Orphans and Mr. Poe in the gate of the house, and when they get out of the gate the convicts have already escaped, leaving Mr. Poe to look for a new guardian for the Baudelaires.


On the side of a building in the picture hangs a sign in the shape of a pair of glasses with a pair of squinting eyes, referencing Dr. Orwell's Office in 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").
  • Lachrymose (Lachrymose Lake) means "given to or causing tears".
  • The TV adaptation includes several references to Moby-Dick, including naming the hurricane Herman after author Herman Melville and the cab driver saying "Call me Ishmael!".

Special editions[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 have not been any more of these as of December 2013.[citation needed]



Elements of The Wide Window were featured in the 2004 film adaptation of the first three books in the series, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. The book was adapted into the fifth and sixth episodes of the first season of the television series adaptation produced by Netflix. In the film, Meryl Streep portrays the children's new guardian aunt Josephine, while Alfre Woodard portrays the character in the TV series.

See also[edit]