‘Since the schism’
Reading the tattoo in Lemony Snicket’s A series of unfortunate events
in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
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This chapter explores how the changing meaning of the tattoo in Lemony Snicket’s A series of unfortunate events disrupts initially simplistic representations of good and evil for the child protagonists and reader. As a result, the changing interpretations of the tattoo also charts the shift in the three central characters’ self-identity and sense of community belonging. Early representations of the tattoo as a sign of fear and surveillance are complicated after book six through the revelation of the secret society known as V.F.D., where membership is usually denoted through an eye tattoo. However, following the society’s split, it is impossible to read the intentions of the bearer of the tattoo. An appreciation of the complexity and evolving meaning of the tattoo mirrors the children’s increasingly sensitive readings of literature and character. The children are often confronted with damaged or incomplete documents and textualities which mean that the children are reliant on partial interpretations. The tattoo is central to the books’ representation of the malleability of meaning, of the promotion of research alongside reading, as demonstrated through the children’s growth in understanding that the world is complex.

Editors: Kate Watson and Katharine Cox


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