Controversy surrounds the novels of famed children’s author Roald Dahl as they are being reviewed and revised to make them more acceptable to a modern audience. According to Variety, Publisher Puffin U.K. is releasing “The Roald Dahl Classic Collection,” which has the author’s original texts, along with the publication of newly released copies for young readers with these alterations.
Dahl is the author of classic stories such as “Matilda,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and “James and the Giant Peach.” Dahl’s stories have been loved and cherished by many readers for decades with several adaptations put to screen.
“Dahl wrote unique worlds and stories, along with having his own language in the characters he writes,” said sophomore English and Theater Arts major Joe Dunn. “The stories have nice messages and they’re not obnoxious while also not afraid to do things that kids might not understand right away.”
As reported by Variety, Publisher Puffin feels a sense of responsibility for its young readers and the content they consume. The Roald Dahl Company sees these new iterations as assurance that “Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today,” according to The Guardian.
These new editions include alterations in some language pertaining to weight, mental health, gender and race. The Roald Dahl Company and Puffin collaborated with Inclusive Minds, which works to make children’s literature more inclusive and accessible when reviewing Dahl’s works.
“I think as long as some sort of research process is going into editing the language of past books and that edits serve to make the books more inclusive, then I don’t have a problem with those changes,” said Jill Amari, a December 2022 English graduate of SHU, who is now a tutor. “However, I also think the original versions should remain available because we can always learn from the past.”
According to The Guardian, one change includes the description of the antagonist Augustus Gloop from the novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which was originally published in 1964. The description of the character changes from “enormously fat” to just “enormous.”
Another change involved the character Miss Trunchbull from “Matilda”, in which her description of being a “most formidable female” became a “most formidable woman,” as reported by First Post.
Words that Dahl used in a comical sense such as “crazy” and “mad” have also been emitted from these new copies.
“I think that we have an issue with many ‘classic’ or old texts and media that represent things that seem inappropriate. However, we cannot sanitize literature any more than we can totally sanitize the world,” said Dr. Emily Bryan, a professor in the English Department. “And if we do that, we will throw a lot of wonderful things out with the bad.”
According to the Guardian, Booker prize-winning author Salman Rushdie called the editing of the novels “absurd censorship.” U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also opposed the modification of these novels.
According to First Post, some others do not agree with the uproar surrounding these controversial changes. Best-selling author Andy Griffiths sees these slight edits as logical and justified as they do not go against the fundamental story.
Roald Dahl himself was quite the controversial figure with antisemitic comments made throughout his lifetime, as reported by First Post.
“Howsoever repulsive an artistic legacy may be, it is the truth of a writer or an artist, and it seems much more appropriate – and honest – to address directly and in an uncensored circumstance which is abhorrent in the art and learn and grow morally and ethically from that,” said Dr. June-Ann Greeley, a professor in the English Department.