Roald Dahl once stated, “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men” (Boron). Dahl is a famously known author due to his eccentric writing style that helped develop thought-provoking stories. Furthermore, he influenced a wide range of people by the significant experiences that shaped him into the individual that he eventually became. Having strong concerns about certain issues, such as racism and the lessening focus of books in the younger generations, motivated him to become an author of children’s stories and eventually spread his messages to others. Additionally, encountering several challenges in life inflicted agony on him, therefore, writing became an effective, therapeutic method. The trauma gained from Roald Dahl’s personal experiences such as enduring a plane crash, family medical issues and attending boarding school kindled a spark of inspiration to write impactful children’s stories.
Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916, in Llandaff, South Wales. He attended his early years of education at Llandaff Cathedral School. However, as a result of his principal corporally punishing him for disobeying the rules, his mother transferred him to St. Peter’s boarding school. Finally, he went to Repton, a prestigious private school. Moreover, his mother offered to pay for his tuition in Oxford or Cambridge University but he replied with, “No thank you. I want to go straight from school to work for a company that will send me to wonderful faraway places like Africa or China.
” That being the case, he was not satisfied and preferred to be set free with his wild imagination, despite being offered excellent academics in his youth (“Roald Dahl”). As Dahl reached adulthood, he had to pave a path for his life by deciding his career. Initially, he took a job with the Shell Oil Company in Tanzania, Africa until 1939. Subsequently, he became a fighter pilot during the World War II era after training in Nairobi, Kenya for the Royal Air Force. Dahl finally settled down by becoming an assistant air attaché after being transferred to Washington, D.C. His intentions turned to having a family by marrying the famous actress Patricia Neal in 1953 and having five children with her. Despite having a marriage for three decades, the couple divorced and Dahl married Felicity Ann Crosland until his death.
He developed an unspecified infection and sent to the John Radcliffe Hospital on November 12, 1990. His life came to an end on the twenty-third of the same month when he was announced dead (“Roald Dahl”). When Dahl was a fighter pilot for the Royal Air Force he dealt with a severe plane crash that immensely altered his life. While serving in the region of the Mediterranean, he crashed in Alexandria, Egypt (“Roald Dahl”). Prior to the tragedy, the plane’s fuel level was low and he was aware of the fact that he had to make a landing in hope of a rescue team to recover him from the premises. The undercarriage hit a boulder and collapsed, resulting in the nose of the plane colliding with the ground forcefully, his body being thrown forward and hitting the canopy violently.
Finally, the plane caught on fire and, while being half-conscious, he escaped and rolled around in the sand to put out the fire that spread to his overalls. Dahl describes his feelings at the end of the occurrence by stating, “All I wanted was to go gently off to sleep and to hell with the flames.” He was faced with the decision of either accepting death or liberating himself from the fire. In this case, he developed the courage to save his life and planted himself in the sand (Sturrock “The Plane Crash That Gave Birth to a Writer”). Recovery from the plane crash, both physically and mentally, was a challenging task. It was required that he got a hip replacement and two spinal surgeries from being injured in the skull, spine, and hip (“Roald Dahl”). His brief experience as a fighter pilot in the Greece and Palestine areas made him remarkably lonely and urged him to find a way in which he could express his emotions and particular stories he wrote emitted those tones.
Sturrock explains Dahl’s writing influence in a Telegraph article by stating, “writing them may initially have been a kind of therapy.” In other words, conveying his struggles in books assisted him in sorting out his conflicting emotions that were persistent in the aftermath of the situation (Sturrock “The Plane Crash That Gave Birth to a Writer”). Despite the negative impact that resulted from working as a fighter pilot, he appreciated the overall experience of the job. Alongside the pain, the enjoyable moments were invested into a few of his works. For instance, the sense of isolation and freedom acquired from flying in the sky, which is an unfamiliar environment, encouraged his interest in fantasy-like worlds. Furthermore, the “spiritual dimension” of flight and its unrealistic nature was included in his well-known books. The positive atmosphere of his job relates to Dahl’s last book, The Minpins, where a boy flies on the back of a swan into a whimsical landscape. Roald Dahl heartily intended on sharing his adventures with others by creating stories that would enable readers to reflect the delighted emotions he felt (Sturrock “The Plane Crash That Gave Birth to a Writer”).
Along with his own calamity, his family had their own share of battles. First of all, when Dahl was 4 years old, his father died, leaving him with only his mother to care for him (“Roald Dahl”). Once he had his own children, one of the sons named Theo was hit and injured by the side of a bus by a cab in New York. Additionally, his eldest daughter named Olivia died when she was seven from measles.
His first wife, Patricia Neal dealt with serious medical issues that tormented with Dahl’s mind as well. Neal experienced an aneurysm and multiple strokes that lead to her losing her ability to move one side of her body and have a speech impairment. He made sure she went through rigorous rehabilitation therapy to recover back into her acting career. The uncommonly numerous problems his family members encountered heavily strained his mental state (Sturrock “The Story Of The Storyteller”). There was a gradual process in which Roald Dahl became one of the most known authors of children’s fiction. The young man had an essential goal of conquering America and the type of society it offered.
To do so, he indirectly expressed his experiences in the Royal Air Force. His first story, The Gremlins was about mythical creatures, that meddled with the same airforce planes he flew in Africa. As a result, the story received such a remarkable amount of attention that it was sent to Eleanor Roosevelt and he got invited to the White House.
This was the start of his remarkable recognition as a writer (Sturrock “The Story Of The Storyteller”). His acclamation grew rapidly as he continued to write more stories. The Gremlins was published in the Saturday Evening Post. Later on, he got the opportunity to write more articles for other sources of media such as The New Yorker. Dahl decided to write mystery books suited more for adults until 1961. The first children’s book he published, officially identifying as a children’s writer, was James and the Giant Peach. After this beginning, he went on to write nineteen books and nine short story collections (“Roald Dahl”).
Eventually, more than two hundred million copies of his books are produced for the public (Ulin). Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of Dahl’s most famous stories for children as is had an abundant amount of copies printed and remade into a movie that was played nationwide in the United States. The book acts as a parody towards candy companies by emitting aspects of them into the whimsical factory run by the character Willy Wonka. The reason behind the major theme of candy originated from previous events in his life. Firstly, Dahl adored chocolate and sweets as a young kid and enjoyed getting them from the confectioner’s shop. At seven years old, he became especially captivated by a candy shop in his hometown and would stare at the window that displayed all of the unbranded sweets he enjoyed. He disagreed with the rigid, industrial chocolate companies and as a result of his nostalgia, he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Brenner). In the book, other companies eventually found out Wonka’s unique recipes and they got replicated (Dahl 15).
Therefore, he had to close the factory and fire all the workers (Dahl 18). During Dahl’s childhood, the most famous British candy companies known as Cadbury and Rowntree had secrecy similar to how Wonka’s Factory had. At the time, other companies tried to replicate new formulas for chocolate by sending spies to gather information. Roald Dahl came across the confidentiality of businesses first-hand in his academic years. When he went to a boarding school at thirteen years old, that was located near the Cadbury headquarters, he was used as a taste tester. He was given no information about the candy because they were contained in grey cardboard boxes and solely asked to rate them from zero to ten. The overall input gathered from the instance fueled his imagination for the novel. Dahl stated in his autobiography Boy, “When I was looking for a plot for my second book for children, I remembered… the newly-invented chocolates.
” The unique chocolate he tested out inspired him to write about uncommon types similar to the ones he tried (Brenner). According to his widow Felicity, Dahl originally wrote a draft of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory called “Charlie’s Chocolate Boy” where Charlie was black. She is ashamed that Dahl was persuaded to change Charlie’s race to white. In the draft, Wonka gets distracted and Charlie gets trapped in a mold which is then filled with chocolate. Felicity states that Dahl purposefully made the story racially controversial in order to describe how stereotypes are unpleasant.
Chocolate was often correlated with the black race in the early twentieth century and putting him in the uncomfortable mold showed the negative outcome of stereotype. Correspondingly, the novel was published in the U.S in 1964 during the time the Civil Rights movement and race riots in England. It is evident that Dahl attempted to spread a message about racial injustice through, what it seemed to be, an innocent and harmless fiction (Russo). Additionally, the Oompa Loompas in the story caused controversy because they were interpreted as slaves. Felicity believes that Dahl relates to the vulnerability of the Oompa Loompas and the oppression they are insinuated to have. The reason is that Dahl was the son of Norwegian immigrants and was bullied constantly at the British boarding schools he attended, making him feel like an outsider. His wife also stated that he had the objective of portraying the Oompa Loompas as objects that Wonka tested the candy on.
He did so in order to relate to how a black person was standardized as an object treated with violence. Certain features of Dahl’s novel came with an abundance of controversy; nonetheless, his desired points were made (Russo).Roald Dahl had several general reasons that motivated him to write and had a specific method to his madness.
He had a designated hut in his garden to do his writing and would spend hours on end working in there. His creative writing style and narrative take at least a few times of rewriting to get his satisfaction. One time, he told his daughter Lucy in a letter, that he rewrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory five or six times to make it good enough to his liking. Lucy said her father’s motivation to write Matilda was his deep concern for books disappearing in society and wanted to express that in his story (Staff). Furthermore, the bedtime stories he told his children inspired him to have a career writing for children (“Roald Dahl”).
On the other hand, Lucy stated, “He wrote for the money — he didn’t hide that,” meaning he cared immensely about how much profit he earned from his works. All in all, various attributes shaped the type of author Dahl eventually became (Staff). Masked behind the innocence his books seem to have when children read them is a certain darkness that stems from his own past. Numerous children enjoy the stories due to the imaginative plots involved. At the same time, adults are able to decode the more intellectual meaning and symbolism from his works. The ability to intrigue a wide range of readers while sharing his thoughts with others creates a combination that supplies for mutual satisfaction from both the reader and author.
Perhaps Dahl wanted his audience to “read between the lines” in order to capture the genuine essence each book held. By doing so, he has taught society that not everything is as simple as it seems and within every chocolate factory or magical adventure lays its corrupt nature.