Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Roald Dahl’s The Magic Finger is a rollicking account of a hunting trip that goes amuck. This grossly imaginative tale is told from the viewpoint of a highly opinionated eight-year-old girl, the story’s unnamed narrator. The book is short, containing only forty-one pages in its original edition. The text is interspersed with William Pène du Bois’ fanciful black-and-white sketches of the comedic events and whimsical characters described by the author. Some of these illustrations unobtrusively fit into a quarter of a page, or less, leaving the remainder of the page for text; other drawings completely dominate a two-page spread.

The setting for the story is quickly established. Two young boys, whose last name is Gregg, live next door to the eight-year-old narrator. The girl “just can’t stand” hunting, and the boys next door and their father hunt both animals and birds: “Even Philip, who was only eight years old, had a gun of his own.” Adding intrigue to these rather ordinary circumstances is the unusual “gift” that the girl possesses—a magic finger.

The girl does not understand this gift; she only knows that she has always possessed it. It is activated when she becomes angry. A jolt of something akin to electrical power is released from her finger and lands on the person who has angered her, causing all sorts of outrageous things to happen—things over which she has no control. Therefore, when the Greggs...

(The entire section is 505 words.)