In one form or another, education figures extensively in the work of Roald Dahl. His memoir, Boy (1984), reveals schooldays blighted by violent or even sadistic teachers.1 The same subject is also prominent in his shorter, ‘factual’, piece, ‘Lucky Break’ (1977). The accuracy of these recollections has subsequently been challenged, but it could be argued that this picture reflects part of Dahl’s self-construct as someone whose ability, unrecognised by those in authority, triumphed despite, rather than because of, the endeavours of his teachers. A similar emphasis is to be found in much of his fictional writing. The contrast in Matilda (1988) between the angelic Miss Honey, who recognises her pupil’s potential, and the brutal Miss Trunchbull, who is adamant about the limitations of young children, is consistent with Dahl’s views about the weaknesses of the educational system. It appears that Dahl’s self-edited recollections of the schools he had experienced created in him a tension between appreciation of the sterling qualities of those teachers who encouraged in their pupils a love of learning, and in particular of literature, and those schools and teachers who wanted children to fit their preconceived notions about children as the products of the educational system.
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