After reading two or three of Roald Dahl’s books, one can easily find similarities among them: the underdog protagonist finding himself on a journey to change his life forever. Charlie, the loner of very little means found a ticket to another world, a life where he perhaps wouldn’t have to share a bed with his parents and grandparents. Matilda Wormwood was the overlooked sibling, her parents thinking she would never amount to anything. In an almost Harry Potter like sense, she had the (literal) power to change her life, along with her school’s and her favorite teacher’s fates combined.
Meeting The Witches afterwards gives one the same message: of an innocent, yet victimized character overcoming their bully, the demon on their shoulder. Perhaps this challenge makes Dahl’s books integral to the children’s section. Perhaps that’s why it makes his tales so famous for kids of the 8-13 age group, the same one I was in when I first read his titles.
His stories also, however, include the most unbelievably obnoxious – almost frightening – characters. Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull and The Witches’ Grand High Witch are only two of the Dahl figures that haunted my dreams then. I distinctly remember shutting The Witches once the Grand High Witch found the narrator. I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t want to continue with the story anymore. Who invents such situations and thinks we can deal with it? Not me. Not at eight years old. Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt and her dad all fall under the same category: the kind of people you wish you never have to meet.
Until now, how does one really justify buying a book called The Twits or Revolting Rhymes for younger cousins or nieces and nephers? Even Quentin Blake’s illustrations provide every gruesome detail to Mr. Twit’s beard.
Like all fans, though, I know that there may be no better introduction to life’s obstacles than with the world that Roald Dahl created. In Roald Dahl’s world, characters feel fear and overcome it. In Roald Dahl’s world, characters are unfazed by their difficult situations. In Roald Dahl’s world, the ending, no matter how twisted it may be, is always a happy one too.
If only we had the Magic Finger. Or Matilda on our side. Or a Golden Ticket.