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A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 3262 words Published: 28th Apr 2017

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This movie tells about The Baudelaires orphans: Violet; Klaus; and Sunny. Violet is fourteen years old, Klaus is twelve years old, and Sunny is still an infant. Each of these orphans has awesome ability: Violet can find and create everything from the things around her as good as a scientist; Klaus loves reading so much and amazingly he remembers all what he read even in details; and then Sunny, the youngest, her teeth are so strong and she bites almost everything. Their parents are killed in a fire that also destroyed their house. Mr. Poe, the family banker, then sends the children to live with Count Olaf, an actor who is their closest relative.

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Count Olaf treats the children awfully. Soon The Baudelaires know that Count Olaf just wants to take their parents’ richness. One time because of a coincidence, Mr. Poe thinks that Count Olaf is not a responsible parent so that Mr. Poe takes back the children from Count Olaf. Olaf, pretending to have an emotional goodbye with The Baudelaires, promises that he will find them again and get their fortune. Mr. Poe sends the children to live with their uncle, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, a cheerfully herpetologist. The Baudelaires live happily with Uncle Monty. Nonetheless, Count Olaf comes in disguise to Uncle Monty’s house as his new assistant for herpetology and he killed Uncle Monty.

The orphans are then sent to live with Aunt Josephine who lives in a house on the edge of a cliff above the Lake Lachrymose. However, Count Olaf catches the children wherever they go in order to get an opportunity to grab the Baudelaires’ wealth. He does camouflages to fool other guardians of the Baudelaires. Count Olaf causes the death of Aunt Josephine and makes himself as if he is the children’s savior. As a result, Mr. Poe gives custody back to Count Olaf, seeing how he rescued the children. Mr. Poe reveals to Count Olaf that he would not inherit the children’s fortune even if they died, with the exception of blood relatives, or married couples.

Count Olaf invites Mr. Poe and people he knows to his play which stars himself and Violet as the leads. It is a trap for the Baudelaires so that Count Olaf can gain access to Violet’s inheritance. Klaus notices Count Olaf’s bad plan. Somehow he ruins the play and makes people realize the tyranny of Count Olaf and then arrest him. Moreover, Klaus notices that the death of his parents is not merely an accident, but it was Count Olaf’s deed. Eventually, the Baudelaires are safe and kept away from Count Olaf.

The reason the writer choose this movie to be analyzed is because the writer is indeed interested in this movie from the first time the writer saw it. This movie is one of 21th century literary works which depicts chains of a unique story which is not cliché. From its title, it is discernible that this movie imparts a kind of tragedy which involves life/moral values. Moreover, it involves the hamartia, anagnorisis, peripeteia, and catharsis. This is why the writer decides to use Aristotelian theory to analyze this movie, because hamartia, anagnorisis, peripeteia, and catharsis are the key elements of the theory.

Having considered the above facts, the writer proposes a study entitled The Hamartia, Anagnorisis, Peripeteia and Catharsis in Brad Silberling’s (2004) Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.


The field of the study is literature, especially movie.


This study will discuss about Aristotle’s theory of tragedy, about Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events movie, mostly its hamartia, anagnorisis, peripeteia, and catharsis.


What are the Hamartia, Anagnorisis, Peripeteia, and Catharsis in the movie?

How are the Hamartia, Anagnorisis, Peripeteia, and Catharsis represented cinematographically in the movie?

To what extent do those elements affect the movie?


The writer wants the readers notice and comprehend the meanings of Hamartia, Anagnorisis, Peripeteia, and Catharsis and also their existence.

The writer wants to show how the key elements of Aristotelian theory are depicted in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events movie cinematographically.

The writer wants to evince how the key elements affect the movie.


Only few people know the movie of Lemony Snicket’s A Serie s of Unfortunate Events. Also, only few people comprehend what Aristotelian theory is about well, including the hamartia, anagnorisis, peripeteia, and catharsis. Many people do not know that this movie is impressive, that using the Aristotelian theory to analyze the movie can give people some significant life values.


This study concentrates on the movie entitled Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and on the Aristotle’s theory of tragedy especially the key elements. Entertainment, knowledge, and wisdom are benefits that can be obtained from this study. By watching or observing Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events movie, the readers are going to get pleasant or fun. Through signification of the Aristotelian theory, it will broaden the readers’ knowledge. Moreover, by understanding the life/moral values in the movie through catharsis, the readers are going to be conscious that the values do enlarge their wisdom.



A unit of happening. (Paredes, 1986).


Mimesis means copying another person’s action or way of doing something.


Plot is the imitation of the action or the arrangement of the incidents. Plot is also the first principle and the soul of a tragedy. (Hibbard & Frenz, 1954). Meanwhile, according to Cooper (1979), plot is the principle of life.


“Character is that which reveals moral purpose, showing what kinds of things a man chooses or avoids.” (Hibbard & Frenz, 1954, p. 170).


Spectator is the synonym of audience. (Good, 2008).


“Tragedy (as opposed to epic) relies on an enactment (dramatic performance), not on ‘narrative’ (the author telling a story).” (Leyg, 1996). According to Cooper (1979), a tragedy is a mimesis, not of people but of their actions and life. However, Kennedy (1979) said that tragedy is an imitation not only of a complete action, but of events inspiring fear or pity. Furthermore, he said that tragedy is about the realization of the unthinkable.

Tragic Hero

“The tragic hero is a great man who is neither a paragon of virtue and justice nor undergoes the change to misfortune through any real badness or wickedness but because of some mistake.” (Leyg, 1996). Tragic hero is one who is not pre-eminent in moral virtue, who passes to bad fortune not through vice or wickedness, but because of some piece of ignorance, and who is of high repute and great good fortune. (Cooper, 1979).


Hamartia is the character’s fatal flaw. In other words, it is an intellectual mistake or an error in judgment.


“Recognition or discovery (anagnorisis): the revelation of some fact not known before, or some person’s true identity.” (Kennedy, 1979, p.943).


Peripeteia is a reversal of circumstances or turning point. (Aswers, 2007). According to Watson (2002), peripeteia is a reversal is a change of a situation to its opposite.


It is purgation, purification, and clarification of pity and fear.


In this study the writer focuses in Aristotle’s theory of tragedy which includes hamartia, anagnorisis, peripeteia, and catharsis as its key elements. This can help the writer to analyze the hamartia, anagnorisis, peripeteia, catharsis in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events movie.

The form of drama called tragedy was born in the fifth century B.C. It is Aristotle’s famous definition. (Kennedy, 1979). Aristotle was one of important ancient philosophers from Greek. He was born in Stagira, a town in Macedonia in 384 B.C. “Aristotle is a whole university in himself”. (Hibbard & Frenz, 1954). He influenced medieval science and logic and on literary theory since the Renaissance. Since the Renaissance, his name has been associated most often with his concepts of tragic catharsis, anagnorisis, and unity of action. (Answers, 2007). His theory will be applied in this study, which is theory of tragedy.

Aristotle’s Theories

Cooper (1979), stated that a work cannot be a tragedy if there were no action. Hibbard & Frenz (1954), said that without action there cannot be a tragedy. The tragic event involves a fall from greatness, brought by the agent’s free action. (Perrine, 1974). Aristotle’s theory which is prior to his theory of tragedy is theory of responsibility. Aristotle’s theory of responsibility was established through his theories of character acquisition and action.

Theory of Character Acquisition

His theory of character acquisition states that people get their character from repetitively demonstrating actions they think are best.

Theory of Action

Theory of action distinguishes between what actions are voluntary or not voluntary. (Watson, 2002).

Theory of Tragedy

Nowadays the best tragedies are about a few families only. “For a tragedy is an imitation, not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action, and its end is a mode of action, not a quality.” (Hibbard & Frenz, 1954, p.170). It is the nature of tragedy that the protagonist must fall from power and from happiness. The recognition, combined with reversal, will produce either pity or fear; and actions producing these effects are those which tragedy represents. Nonetheless, the problem with Aristotle’s famous definition is not in agreeing in how to translate it, but rather how to interpret it.

Definition of Tragedy

The arrangement of tragedy should be complex, not simple, and it should present a mimesis of things that arouse fear and pity, as this is what is peculiar to the tragic mimesis. Tragedy is a mimesis not only of a complete action, but also of things arousing pity and fear, emotions most likely to be stirred when things happen unexpectedly but because of each other. A tragedy is a mimesis of an action and it is only because of the action that it is a mimesis of the people engaged in it. (Cooper, 1979). “A tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, accomplishing through incidents that arouse pity and fear the purgation of these emotions.” (Kennedy, 1979, p.899).

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Tragedy causes the emotions of pity and fear in the hearts of all men, then affords a pleasurable relief. In other words, the spectator at a tragedy, following the tribulations of the tragic hero, himself suffers vicariously, is emotionally moved, and as a result of the experience, finds pleasurable relief. (Hibbard & Frenz, 1954). In a tragedy a hero suffers due to hamartia and then knowledge comes of ignorance followed by a reversal in fortune with a feeling of purification in the character. (Answers, 2007).

Key Elements of Theory

Hamartia: Hamartia is the Greek word. It means error, transgression, flaw, or weakness of character. (Kennedy, 1979). Hamartia is a tragic error caught in a crisis situation; the protagonist makes an error in judgment or action, missing the mark, and disaster results. In other words, hamartia is the fall of a noble man caused by some excess or mistake in behavior. The main character break a divine or moral law which leads to disastrous consequences. Despite the horrible events befalling the tragic hero, tragedies celebrate the human spirit, in the confrontation of difficult situations and the accountability of a character for his or her own actions. (Answers, 2007).

The protagonist in the story is not a perfectly good man nor yet a bad man; his misfortune is brought upon him not by vice and depravity but by some error of judgment. The hero’s downfall is his own fault, the result of his own free choice, not the result of pure accident or villainy. Accident, villainy or fate may contribute to the downfall but only as cooperating agents: they are not alone responsible. The combination of the hero’s greatness and his responsibility for his own downfall describes his downfall as tragic rather than as merely pathetic. (Perrine, 1974).

Anagnorisis: It means a recognition or discovery. Recognition is a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined for good or bad fortune. (Hibbard & Frenz, 1954). Recognition is a change from ignorance to knowledge, tending either to affection; it determines in the direction of good or ill fortune the fates of the people involved. (Cooper, 1997). Anagnorisis is commonly applied to any self-knowledge the hero gains as well as to insight to the whole nature or condition of mankind. (Watson, 2002). The discovery induces a startling effect.

Peripeteia: Cooper (1997), remarked that a peripeteia occurs when the course of events takes a turn to the opposite in the way described. According to Kennedy (1979), reversal or peripeteia is an action that turns out to have the opposite effect from the effect its doer had intended. Peripeteia occurs when a situation seems to developing in one direction, then suddenly reverses to another. Reversal is “a series of incidents or a train of action tending to bring about a certain end but resulting in something wholly different.” (Hibbard & Frenz, 1954, p.170). The change of fortune for the hero should be an event that occurs contrary to the audience’s expectations and that is therefore surprising.

Catharsis: Purification of plot events, so that the central character’s errors become cleansed by his or her recognitions and suffering. Through a course of events involving pity and fear, the purification of those painful or fatal acts, pity and fear it archives the purgation. It is simply an intellectual clarification of the meaning of the tragic happenings. Catharsis is also the purging of the emotions of pity and fear that are aroused in the viewer of a tragedy. Therefore, it is related to the psychology of the spectator, the public is purged of its fear and pity. (Paredes, 1986). Actually, catharsis is the positive social function of tragedy. It purifies the audience’s feelings of pity and fear so that in real life we understand better whether we should feel them. Further, it purges pity and fear so that we can face life with less of these emotions or more control over them.


This study uses qualitative research, applied research, or library research. The reason is because field of this study is literature which interpretation is the prime provision. Therefore, desk work or library research is appropriate and suitable to commit for this study.

K.1 Method of Data Collection

After deciding what study that would be done, which is a study of Aristotelian theory of tragedy, the writer searched the materials. Movie of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, pictures, and data about this movie are the first materials that would be gained. The writer is going to keep looking for data about Aristotle’s theories especially his theory of tragedy which consists of the key elements (hamartia, anagnorisis, peripeteia, and catharsis). Those theory elements become essential to analyze the movie. The writer collected the data needed by visitting the library and reading some books related to the study. Also the writer looked for the data from the internet. For the further plans/steps, the writer will keep looking for the data and searching them through both written and electronic sources to enrich the primary data for this study.

K.2 Data Analysis

The title of the movie is Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. The complete information about the movie can be read as follows:

Title : Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Year : 2004

Genre : Drama

Director : Brad Silberling

Film Stars : Jim Carrey, Emily Browning, Liam Aiken, Meryl Streep, Jude Law

The movie tells about three orphans (The Baudelaires) who are adopted by a bizarre and mysterious actor named Count Olaf. He attempts to steal The Baudelaires’ parents’ richness. The Baudelaires try to get away from Olaf any time they can but Olaf can find them wherever they go. The avoidance of The Baudelaires towards Olaf leads these pitiful orphans to a series of unfortunate events. To analyze the movie, the writer uses the Aristotelian theory. Aristotle’s theory concerns with tragedy. According to Aristotle, in a tragedy a hero suffers due to hamartia and then knowledge comes of ignorance (anagnorisis) followed by a reversal (peripeteia) in fortune with a feeling of purification (catharsis) in the character.

In analyzing the study, the writer will explain more about the research questions from the problem formulation. Using Aristotelian theory, the writer will show the key elements in the movie and why they are called as the way they are. Then the writer depicts the existence of the key elements through cinematography to show the evidences. Further, the writer describes how the movie is so affected by the key elements and how come the movie and the key elements foster one another.


Cooper, D. E. (Ed.). (1997). Aesthetics: The classic readings. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Good, M. (2008). Cambridge advanced learner’s dictionary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hibbard, A., & Frenz, H. (Ed.). (1954). Writers of the western world. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Kennedy, X. J. (Ed.). (1979). Literature: An introduction to fiction, poetry, and drama. Toronto: Little, Brown and Company.

Perrine, L. (Ed.). (1974). Literature: Structure, sound, and sense. USA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.


Answers. (2007, June 6). In Aristotelian. Retrieved April 17, 2012, from http://www.answers.com/topic/aristotelian#ixzz1ez5h7jOW

Berardinelli, J. (2004, April 5). Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. ReelViews. Retrieved April 11, 2009, from http://www.reelviews.net/movies/l/lemony_snicket.html

Leyg, H. (1996, June 24). Aristotle’s tragedy. In Aristotle & the elements of tragedy. Retrieved June 21, 2012, from http://www.ohio.edu/people/hartleyg/ref/aristotletragedy.html

Paredes, R. (1986, April 27). Aristotle’s definition of tragedy. In Introduction to philosophy. Retrieved June 21, 2012, from http://www.paredes.us/tragedy.html

Watson, J. (2002, September 9). My class notes. In Aristotle’s tragedy. Retrieved May 2, 2012, from http://johnwatsonsite.com/MyClassNotes/Texts/Antigone/AntigAristotleTrag.html


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