Roald Dahl Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

0111207182-Dahl.jpg Roald Dahl (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Roald Dahl was remarkable for having achieved wide acclaim in two distinct genres: macabre tales for adults and children’s literature. The son of Norwegian immigrants who found prosperity in Wales, his childhood was darkened by his father’s early death and his unhappy experiences at various English boarding schools. Rather than attend college, he went to work for Shell Oil. An assignment in Africa delighted him and provided materials for such stories as “Poison.”

During World War II Dahl enlisted in the Royal Air Force (RAF), where he was a successful fighter pilot but suffered injuries that would plague him all his life. He was reassigned to the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., to work as a spy. Here he met C. S. Forester, who wanted to do an article about Dahl’s experiences in the RAF. Dahl decided to write the article himself, however, and with Forester’s encouragement he sold several stories about pilots that he later collected in Over to You. A few of these stories, among them “An African Story,” veer into the fantastic and allow a glimpse of the macabre sensibilities for which Dahl later became known. He also wrote a children’s story, The Gremlins, about mischievous critters sabotaging fighter planes, which Walt Disney purchased, though the film was never made.

After the war Dahl decided to try writing for a living. When his novel Sometime Never: A Fable for Supermen received mixed reviews, he returned to writing short stories. In the eighteen stories of Someone Like You Dahl portrays a variety of characters who at first appear the very...

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(Short Stories for Students)

Roald Dahl was born in Wales to Norwegian parents. His father died the year he was born, and his mother remained in Great Britain. He...

(The entire section is 252 words.)


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Although Dahl was one of the world’s most successful children’s authors, parental critics have charged that his books revelled in vulgarity and cruelty. Criticism of his books has come from both the Right and the Left, as well as from other ideological factions. Feminists, for example, have denounced The Witches (1983) for its unflattering portrayals of women, while Christian Fundamentalists have attacked the book out of fear that it will entice impressionable children into the occult. Dahl’s private opinions—especially anti-Semitism expressed in letters to friends—have also fueled arguments against exposing children to his books. Critics have also objected to unflattering racial depictions in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and The BFG (1982).

Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes (1982), one of the most frequently banned books in U.S. schools, parodies traditional fairy tales. Objections to it center on both its language and its violence— such as the beheading of Cinderella’s stepsisters. Dahl’s other banned works include George’s Marvelous Medicine (1981), in which a boy allegedly murders his grandmother, and James and the Giant Peach (1961), which has been targeted for its language, sexual imagery, and abusive situations.

Some U.S. publishers have bowdlerized Dahl’s books, removing allegedly offensive passages, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s description of a fat boy. In an essay about censorship published in 1987, Dahl contended that adults are more disturbed by his books than are children—who he claimed are more vulgar and cruel than grownups.