Author Study Project Term Paper

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Roald Dahl's Life & Works

Roald Dahl was born in Wales in 1916. After his father and sister died, his mother decided to move to England. There Dahl studied until he was 20 and then moved to Africa to work for Shell Oil Company. Looking for adventure, he becomes pilot for the Royal Air Force during Second World War.

Dahl's meeting with the author C.S. Forester encouraged him to write. For 15 years he wrote for adults. However, after considering his own children, he began writing longer and more humorous stories from 1960 on. His first two children's books, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory became instant hits. Soon, he was one of the best-known children's writers for children worldwide.

Between 1980 and 1990, over eleven million of Dahl's books were sold in Great Britain, alone. He received the World Fantasy Award in 1983. He died on the November 23, 1990.

James and the Giant Peach Becomes Giant Success

The hero in James and the Giant Peach, James Henry Trotter, seems to have everything in the world going the wrong way, including having wicked aunts, being an orphan, and missing his home and parents.

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When James accidentally drops some green magic crystals by the old peach tree, strange things begin happening. The peach at the top of the tree starts to grow, and before long it becomes as big as a house. James then discovers a secret entranceway. When crawling inside, he meets a bunch of wonderful oversized friends -- including Old-Green-Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and Miss Spider.

After years of feeling like an outsider in the house of his cruel Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, James has finally found a place where he belongs.

In the end, James overcomes all the obstacles in his life and begins a happy, new life filled with some very loving friends. This book shows Dahl's forte -- providing parents with a fun book to read and children with an understanding that they can overcome life's challenges.

Term Paper on Author Study Project Assignment

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An Interview with Dahl (February. 1983)

TZ: Who are the writers you feel have influenced you the most?

Dahl: DH Lawrence, for some of his sentences and phrasing, not for his construction-his use of words. And Hemingway, for his construction. The master, really, of modem writing. It seems to me that the universities, especially in America, make the trends, deciding whether somebody is in or out of favor. Hemingway was out of favor for a while. They're completely wrong. He's been a greater influence on modern writing, on English literature in this century, than anyone else who ever lived. He taught all of us the value of the short sentence, using adjectives very, very carefully-in other words, hardly at all unless you really wanted it to mean something. And you didn't keep saying "wonderful" because it became meaningless. They're great secrets, those, and nobody ever did it before him, they just didn't.

You can read the writers who came before him, people like Galsworthy and Bennett and even Mark Twain, although he was a very fine writer, they all threw these adjectives around. Hemingway had far greater impact. A page of Hemingway at his best has more power than a page of Twain. Or a page of Dickens, come to that. Dickens just threw adjectives around like peanuts. Although he was rather marvelous, because of it.

Then why did you begin to write for children?

Dahl: Ah, that's a whole different thing. After having done my twenty- five years of short stories, the three volumes, I think I probably ran out of. lots, and that's the hardest thing in the world. If you write the sort of short stories I write, which are real short stories, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, instead of the modern trend, which is mood pieces.

I'm judging right now a short-story competition, a very serious big one, and there's not one single short story I've read so far with a plot. They're all mood pieces. You know: I went down to the kitchen and my wife was there and she had a saucepan and we had a little row and threw the carrots out the window and the dog came in and-they're concentrating on their writing, and not on the content. Well, the average reader doesn't care about the writing. They want something which will keep them reading, wondering what's going to happen next. None of these stories says what's going to happen next. And then to finish it satisfactorily, so the reader says ha ha, I wouldn't have guessed that, how fantastic, how fascinating, ooh, golly! That's. jolly hard.

And Hemingway, for his construction. The master, really, of modem writing."

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

Good Enough to Eat!

Mr Willy Wonka can make marshmallows that taste of violets, and rich caramels that change colour every ten seconds as you suck them, and little feathery sweets that melt away deliciously the moment you put them between your lips. He can make chewing-gum that never loses its taste, and sugar balloons that you can blow up to enormous sizes before you pop them with a pin and gobble them up. and, by a most secret method, he can make lovely blue birds' eggs with black spots on them, and when you put one of these in your mouth, it gradually gets smaller and smaller until suddenly there is nothing left except a tiny little DARKRED sugary baby bird sitting on the tip of your tongue."

Jo (New Zealand):

Mr Wonka owns the huge chocolate factory and he plants five golden tickets in chocolate bars as a competition. Charlie Bucket wins one and he is ver grateful. The other winner all broke the rules and were kicked out of the tour. At the end Mr. Wonka told Charlie he was allowed to look after the chocolate factory because he was getting old.This story shows that people who break the rules will miss out on all the rewards. I'm happy Charlie and his family will be rich now.

A dana from m.l.s (canada):

just love that book. It just goes to show your dreams can come true if you put your mind to it!

Review submitted by Mairead O'Connor, aged 34, of St. Aloysius

Roald Dahl's work has always been appreciated for its aesthetic quality. In other words, when using this book within the classroom, it has been considered valuable because it engages children in an imaginative/explorative process.

Because Dahl is conidered a successful author, what he really has to say is never investigated nor challenged.

Yet Dahl's work, contains clear underlining messages about the rewards for "good children" and what happens to "bad children." What people do not question or even see as problematic, is his use of literature as a method of promoting his own values and beliefs. That is not necessarily wrong, but it is necessary for the reader to scrutinize these values and challenege them if necessary.

The appreciation of literature for aethetic and pragmatic purposes is valuable, but critical literacy allows the reader to examine and explore hidden values inherent within the text.

Dahl Controversy

Throughout Roald Dahl's life, there was a great deal of disagreement about his books, beliefs and philosophy. There are those who disagree with his negative attitudes toward adults. He once said, "Parents and schoolteachers are the enemy. The adult is the enemy of the child because of the awful process of civilizing this thing that when it is born is an animal with no manners, no moral sense at all." In Witches, behind the mask of a beautiful woman is an ugly witch, and in Matilda, Miss Turnbull throws children out of windows. Both parents are eaten in James and the Giant Peach, but the real enemies of the hero of the story, are two aunts.

Dahl's stories have surprising endings and eerie, scary moods. The main character rids the villain with his bad traits in unconventional but unavoidable ways. Uncle Oswald, a seducer from the Visitor, gets seduced. An antique dealer in Parson's Pleasure gets a taste of his own medicine and the Twits use glue to catch birds and meet their own sticky conclusions. In Lamb to the Slaughter, the murder evidence, a frozen leg of lamb, is eaten by officers who are hunting down the murder weapon.

Dahl also aroused much controversy with his politically incorrect opinions. He was accused of anti-Semitism and antifeminism. Dahl once defended himself against accusations of antisemitism by saying: "Even a stinker like Hitler didn't just pick on them for no reason."

Children's literary critic David Rees states about Dahl's works: "The trouble with Dahl's world is that it is black and white -- two-dimensional and unreal. Since adults cannot be trusted, they are often villains. However, Rees explains, "adults enter a child's world in a thousand different moral shapes and sizes." A child hardly ever meets, as Sophie did, adults as evil… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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