The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1) The Bad Beginning question


315 views
In Which time period do these books take place?
Rosella Rosella Feb 01, 2015 08:20AM
My students asked me this question and I'm having a hard time determining the answer. I told them that we would have to work together as detectives to solve that mystery. However, I suspect we won't reach a consensus. My nearest guess is 1930s, but that seems simultaneously too early and too late. Does anyone else have any suggestions?



I agree with Angus.

The books remind me of some French films along the lines of Amelie, (but more so another movie I just can't remember the name of) but maybe it was Delicatessen or Micmacs. That sort of ambiguous time set, were you find some very modern objects then you get those old time phones and knick knacks.

Anyway, those movies are on Netflix the last time I checked maybe you can show your students a clip and explain to them that there is no set time, that it is not about the time period, but the style the author used. Remind them that it is fiction and that gives the author the freedom to create something completely new.


It is feasible to imagine that the events in these books take place in a different universe than our own. Similar, however different, and therefore cannot possibly completely fit into one single time period in our own universe because these happenings in these books do not occur in our universe's history but another one quite like our own.


deleted member Feb 03, 2015 01:26PM   1 vote
I would say 1920s-1930s. In the film there were a mix of things that seemed to come from different decades yet it looked very 'gothic'.


Interesting answers from what I was led to believe is that it occurs in an alternate universe where time is not really a factor. But things in the books appear to span from the late 1800's-1950-60's. So I think the answer is that there is no REAL answer, as it is set in a world where that would not even be a question.

Not only that but the V.F.D sound very similar to the conspiracy theories surrounding the Illuminati which I think was formed (and disbanded) in the mid-late 1700s.


There is no specific time. If anything it is current, there are too many modern mentions for it to take place in the 30's. The clothes at times are old fashioned as are some of the references and the movie certainly has them in old fashioned clothes but these novels are so odd they are not mean to make sense. It is the author's own world, time and creation.


I think that one of the distinctive features about the setting of the series is that it's so ambiguous re: time and location.

It adds to the mystery behind the persona of Lemony Snicket, and I think that these books won't date like some others do.

The movie is the same, you can't tell from accents, nationalities, costume or technology when or where the story is set.


There is cars but they don't seem very advanced, called automobiles. I notice no electronical devices so I agree with the 50's. also the characters dress in this style of era


Lots of things from totally different times were mentioned in the series, but if you were to try to figure it out I'd go with the books as a reference because many things were added to the Netflix series. The location is also questionable because, for example, Esme Squalor mentions a chair that was given to her from the "King of Arizona" which, of course, doesn't exist. The "Duchess of Winnepeg" was also mentioned, and is also not real because Winnipeg is a city. The book really is just quirky.


My guess would have been 1930's or 40's but there was a thing with a credit card . . .


I am going to guess the 60's?? Just because of the cars, and the typewriters. 😂


According to the Snicket fandom online:

'A Series of Unfortunate Events is set in an unusual, anachronistic time period that is ambiguously set sometime in the 20th century, with old and new inventions used. A variety of inventions and technology are mentioned.'

From reading the books, I'm inclined to believe it!


Yet, credit cards were expressed in the first book by Justice Strauss on page 35. They were invented in the fifties! Hmmmm ..my reading group is curious!


back to top