Roald and the chop-up factory…

The new editions of Roald Dahl’s children’s books have been edited for ‘sensitivity’, and as you may have seen, it’s caused something of a furore, with allegations of ‘political correctness gone mad’, and that horrible pejorative word ‘woke’ being thrown around like…I don’t know what! The Prime Minister has even got involved, criticising the changes. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with him wanting to appeal to the tabloid-reading popular vote…

Beyond all the indignation, there is a complex philosophical debate to be had. If contemporary writers use language that is viewed as discriminatory or harmful, it gets edited out. But how do we deal with writing that passed through unedited in a time when there was rather less ‘sensitivity’ to people’s feelings? It’s a bit like the issue of statues of notable characters we now consider to have been unsuitable to be commemorated. Do we tear them down, or leave them in place, but with a new plaque explaining the reality of their legacy?

Likewise with authors – should we sanitise their writing for a modern audience, or simply add a footnote that attitudes in the past were different? If we airbrush history, do we risk repeating the mistakes of the past? On the other hand, do we want the next generation to read and become familiar with attitudes that aren’t appropriate?

The media is claiming Dahl was anti-Semitic, but in fact most of the reported changes involve language that is rather more innocuous. The word ‘fat’, for instance has been replaced with ‘enormous’. I’m sure that will be a weight (pardon the pun) off the minds of enormous people. ‘Man’ has been replaced with ‘people’; so the Oompa Loompas are now ‘small people’, rather than ‘small men’ (lets hope the female Oompas are getting paid the same as their male counterparts).

In other changes, the products coming out of the chocolate factory are now all dairy-free. Charlie has been changed from male to female, and the title of the sequel has been changed to ‘Charlie and the great glass ceiling’. ‘James and the giant peach’ is now ‘James and the giant impeachment’. And one of Dahl’s favourite characters was considered so dangerous to the minds of young people the book has been withdrawn. So Matilda won’t be going-a-waltzing anymore.

I don’t know; it’s a minefield. What do you think..?


About literarylad

Graham Wright is a freelance writer and author. His first novel, Single Point Perspective, is set in and around the city of Manchester, where he lived and worked for more than fifteen years. His second, Moojara, is set in and around the world, but mostly centres on Perth, Western Australia. Both are works of dramatic literary fiction - imaginative, serious and thoughtful, but with a sense of humour. Graham is currently living in north Shropshire, where he is busy working on novel number three.
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1 Response to Roald and the chop-up factory…

  1. Neil Rickert says:

    If it were up to me, I would keep the original language. But I don’t see the issue as important enough to start a fight.

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