In the oft-quoted words of Arthur Ransome, ‘You write not for children but for yourself, and if, by good fortune, children enjoy what you enjoy, why then you are a writer of children’s books.’2 These words could have been written with Roald Dahl in mind; he wrote about what he knew and enjoyed, and although in his writing for children he generally adopted a different narrative voice from that of his fiction for adults, the themes of and the humour in the two formats are uncannily similar.3 But, as Peter Hunt has noted, Dahl had a worldwide reputation as a writer of sinister short stories ‘that dealt with the very dark corners of human nature before he became a writer for children’.4 Hunt goes on to query whether Dahl’s ‘zestful exploitation of childish instincts for hate and revenge, prejudice and violence, [can] be as innocent as it appears’.5 In the developed world, societies tend to define the child precisely as that which is not adult, endeavouring thus to set up clear demarcations between the two states of being, a position evident in children’s literature. In this context, given the thematic similarities in his writing for children and for adults, particularly the pervasive presence of violence and the frequent representation of crime, can Dahl’s juvenile fiction be considered to constitute a ‘suitable’ read for a child?
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- An Unsuitable Read for a Child? Reconsidering Crime and Violence in Roald Dahl’s Fiction for Children
- Macmillan Education UK
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