Roald Dahl and Philosophy: A Little Nonsense Now and Then

Roald Dahl and Philosophy: A Little Nonsense Now and Then

John V. Karavitis

Language: English

Pages: 264

ISBN: 1442222522

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Roald Dahl and Philosophy: A Little Nonsense Now and Then

John V. Karavitis

Language: English

Pages: 264

ISBN: 1442222522

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


For generations the elements of humor, poignancy, fantasy, and unfettered morality found within acclaimed children’s author Roald Dahl’s most famous tales have captivated both children and adults. Classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Matilda, and The BFG may initially appear to be yarns spun for the amusement of the adolescent mind, however, upon digging deeper one uncovers a treasure trove of philosophical richness that is anything but childish, but in fact reveals the true existential weight, and multi-layered meaning of some of our favorite children’s stories. Editor Jacob M. Held has collected the insights of today’s leading philosophers into the significances, messages, and greater truths at which Dahl’s rhythmic writing winks, revealing a whole new way to appreciate the creation of a man and mind to which readers of all ages are still drawn.

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dreams. Willy Wonka lives in a vast factory that is shut off from the outside world, a place where he is free to pursue his candy-making dreams— which range from hot ice cubes and fizzy lifting drinks to everlasting gobstoppers—and prove that nothing is impossible. Perhaps Wonka’s dreams and methods are just too complicated for his guests. As Foucault noted, people once believed that “the more abstract or complex knowledge becomes, the greater the risk of madness.” 38 Wonka’s perceived madness

spectacle of Willy Wonka’s wonders thus shifts to the equally spectacular punishment of the bratty youngster. On the surface, Dahl’s emphasis on reprimanding naughty youths hints at the rudimentary moralism of traditional children’s literature: if a child disobeys, he or she will be punished. Nevertheless, Dahl’s concept of punishment is somewhat more complicated: Are the naughty children punished for their general disobedience or for their specific behavioral problems? Is Charlie Bucket rewarded

“It is manifest that education should be one and the same for all, and that it should be public, and not private . . . the training in things which are of common interest should be the same for all.” 5 Thus, Aristotle acknowledges that a society needs its members to hold a common set of beliefs, a common culture, in order to make the city-state function optimally. But what exactly should be taught, and how, has always been the subject of debate. This debate over the content, structure, and

watching us with a skeptical “wicked eye” and wondering “what are you up to?” In order to conform, and therefore be accepted and rewarded by society, the masses will adopt the standards and values of the broader social order. The individual that attempts to deviate from those conventions and standards runs headlong into the systems of conformity that maintain social order. When someone adopts an identity or a course of action that is perceived to be deviant (meaning it falls outside the

also about punishment. A great deal of the book focuses on the punishment of the bad children. A significant amount of the text is committed to developing Veruca, Augustus, Mike, and Violet and to providing the context for their eventual punishments. This is a major part of the book, and it is the flip side of us wanting to see Charlie succeed: we also want to see these rotten children fail. In fact, we delight in their punishments, perhaps too much. We are, after all, enjoying the thought of

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