Many adult readers disagree with the portrayed unreality of Dahl's books because in life everything is not fair, and good does not always win. Even when the hero of the Witches is permanently turned into a mouse, the reader is assured by the main character that, "I honestly don't feel especially bad about it. I don't even feel angry. In fact, I feel rather good" This lack of remorse is typical of Dahl's stories.
Similarly, many do not like Dahl's concept that virtue and poverty go together, such as with Miss Honey, Matilda's adored teacher. Some find this objectionable because it is a view consistent with Marxist philosophy, not one that supports free market capitalism.
Further criticism arises from Dahl's portrayal of adults, which many believe has a negative impact on the young readers. Throughout his work, authoritarian adults are often the victims of horrible revenge. However, what some find most upsetting is that adults are treated harshly even when innocent, such as when the main character's parents are killed in the Witches. Critics Sadker and Sadker accuse Dahl of ageism, and of conveying the message that "the needs and desires and opinions of old people are totally irrelevant and inconsequential."
Critics also challenge Dahl's handling of social issues. This is one reason why the Witches was ninth on the list of the most frequently banned books for the 1990s. Meanwhile, English feminists accuse Dahl of sexism. "...the fact remains that all witches are women. There is no such thing as a male witch" (Telgen).
Dahl defended his work by pointing to the "lovely grandmother, who is one of the major characters in the story" (Telgen). The grandmother's personality is described early in the book when the main character says," 'The fact that I am still here and able to speak to you...is due entirely to my wonderful grandmother." Dahl stated that such accusations are unfounded because of the grandmother's bravery and wisdom. (Treglown). He is not concerned that some adults might be offended, but rather on entertaining his readers.
Child neglect issues have also been criticized. Matilda says she is treated by her parents "as nothing more than a scab. A scab is something you have to put up with until the time comes when you can pick it off and flick it away." One reviewer, Anna a. Flowers, says, "Child neglect countered by revenge, however funny and however justified, is just not a nice theme" (Telgen).
These controversial issues may upset adults, but they have interested millions of youths in reading in general, and Dahl's books in specific. In Dahl they found an author with a view of society like theirs of society -- distrustful of authority and strong in the belief that good will triumph over bad.
A librarian of a middle school once said: "Roald Dahl's books are always on our reorder list, for copies of his books circulate so much they are worn in no time! The titles are always checked out and usually on reserve!" (Crawford).
Crawford, Paula J. Letter from Jackson Memorial Middle School librarian to student (Massillon, Ohio). 26 March 1997.
Rees, David. "Dahl's Chickens: Roald Dahl." Children's Literature in Education, Fall 1988.
Telgen, Diane. (Ed). "Roald Dahl." Children's Literature Review. New York: Gale, 1997.
Treglown, Jeremy. Roald Dahl: A Biography. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994.
Most Frequently Banned Books in the 1990s." This list is from Banned in the U.S.A. By Herbert N. Foerstel, showing the books most frequently challenged books in schools and public libraries in the United States between 1990 and 1992.
Impressions Edited by Jack Booth et al.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Removed from a locked reference collection of the Public Library (1988), where it had been placed because the librarian thought the book espoused a poor philosophy of life.
James and the Giant Peach. Challenged at Deep Creek at the Boulder, Colorado. Public Library (1988), where it had been placed bec ause the librarian thought the book espoused a poor philosophy of life. Elementary School in Charlotte Harbor, Fla. (1991) because it is "not appropriate reading material for young children." Challenged at the Pederson Elementary School in Altoona, Wisconsin. (1991) and at the Morton Elementary School library in Brooksville, Fla. (1992) because the book contains the word "ass" and "promotes" the use of drugs (tobacco, snuff) and whiskey. Removed from classrooms in Stafford County, Virginia Schools (1995) and placed in restricted access in the library because it contains crude language and encourages children to disobey parents and other adults.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2006)) (book)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) ((book)
Genesis and Catastrophe (2000) (story)
Inaudito (1999) (story)
Matilda. (1996) (book)
James and the Giant Peach (1996) (book)
Pisvingers (1995) (story)
Idealnaya para. (1992) (stories)
The Witches (1990) (book)
Breaking Poing (1989) (TV) (novel Beware of the Dog)
Danny and the Champion of the World (1989) (TV) (novel)
The BFG (1989) (novel)
Tales of the Unexpected.(1979) TV Series (short stories)
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. (1971) (book)
The Night Digger. (1971)
Poetry by Roald Dahl
Hot and Cold"
A woman who my mother knows
Came in and took off all her clothes.
Said I, not being very old, 'By golly gosh, you must be cold!'
'No, no!' she cried. 'Indeed I'm not!
I'm feeling devilishly hot!'
As I was going to St. Ives
I met a man with seven wives
Said he, 'I think it's much more fun
Than getting stuck with only one.
In England once there lived a big
And wonderfully clever pig.
To everybody it was plain
That Piggy had a massive brain.
He worked out sums inside his head,
There was no book he hadn't read.
He knew what made an airplane fly,
He knew how engines worked and why.
He knew all this, but in the end
One question drove him round the bend:
He simply couldn't puzzle out
What LIFE was really all about.
What was the reason for his birth?
Why was he placed upon this earth?
His giant brain went round and round.
Alas, no answer could be found.
Till suddenly one wondrous night.
All in a flash he saw the light.
He jumped up like a ballet dancer
And yelled, "By gum, I've got the answer!"
"They want my bacon slice by slice
"To sell at a tremendous price!
"They want my tender juicy chops
"To put in all the butcher's shops!
"They want my pork to make a roast
"And that's the part'll cost the most!
"They want my sausages in strings!
"They even want my chitterlings!
"The butcher's shop! The carving knife!
"That is the reason for my life!"
Such thoughts as these are not designed
To give a pig great piece of mind.
Next morning, in comes Farmer Bland,
A pail of pigswill in his hand,
And piggy with a mighty roar,
Bashes the farmer to the floor...
Now comes the rather grizzly bit
So let's not make too much of it,
Except that you must understand
That Piggy did eat Farmer Bland,
He ate him up from head to toe,
Chewing the pieces nice and slow.
It took an hour to reach the feet,
Because there was so much to eat,
And when he finished, Pig, of course,
Felt absolutely no remorse.
Slowly he scratched his brainy head
And with a little smile he said,
"I had a fairly powerful hunch
"That he might have me for his lunch.
"And so, because I feared the worst,
"I thought I'd better eat him first."
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Sometime Never: A Fable for Supermen
James and the Giant Peach
The Magic Finger
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Over to You
Danny: The Champion of the World
The Enormous Crocodile
My Uncle Oswald
George's Marvelous Medicine
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me
The Dahl Diary
The Vicar of Nibbleswicke
The Mildenhall Treasure
Roald Dahl by Chris Dowling (1983)
Roald Dahl by Alan Warren (1988)
Roald Dahl: A Biography by Jeremy Treglown (1994);
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, ed. By Tom Pendergast and Sara Pendergast (1999);
Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter: Portraits of children's writers by Julia Eccleshare (2002)