It is our duty to give our children the uncensored Roald Dahl

In George Orwell’s seminal work, 1984, the following warning is issued:

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

Roald Dahl died when this writer was six years old. By chance, that was also around about the age I was when I first discovered his works. First, Fantastic Mr. Fox: the tale of a wily canid with a family to feed, who reliably outwits, in partnership with other animals, a lumbering and somewhat stupid farmer.

That book, I think, instilled a lifelong love of and respect for animals – from the fox who has a family to feed of its own, to Mr. Rat, who says of the farmer’s wife’s hopeless attempts to poison him that “I watch her putting it down, always in the same place, like she thinks I am as stupid as she is”. Dahl is teaching us empathy for the poisoned, not bigotry or cruelty.

Children and animals – the weak – are often his heroes, triumphing over cruel and mean and stupid adults: in Matilda, the heroine outwits and humiliates her own cruel and corrupt father, and a comically villainous school head teacher. In The Twits, the villains are a pair of cruel and stupid ex-circus trainers, and the heroes a family of monkeys who have been abused by them for years.

Dahl’s language is the language of the playground of his time: The villains are fat. And pudgy. And pasty. And hairy. Like a child might, he focuses on the idea that often, people look like what their personalities reflect: Santa Claus might be fat and jolly, but a cruel fat person is lumbering and awkward.

This is important, in the context of the announcement this weekend that many of his books are to be sanitised for a modern era, with all of the “problematic” lines removed. We may not call people fat, you see, so in the new versions, according to the telegraph, fat people will simply be “large”.

But what the censors miss is that the insults are the point. Authority, to Dahl, deserves to be mocked. And negative traits deserve caricature.

For example, in Charlie and the Chocolate factory, the character Augustus Gloop deserves to be mocked, because he represents greed. Violet, another character, represents envy. Mike Teevee represents pride and ambition. Charlie and his Grandfather represent humility and temperance. Dahl’s writing of Gloop as fat is not about insulting a 10 year old German boy for “fatphobic” reasons, but because Gloop is the personification of a vice rather than a literal person: Greed is what is fat and pudgy and unattractive. When Mike Teevee is shrunk, it is ambition and pride that is cut down to size. Similarly, in The Twits and Matilda it is cruelty that is stupid, and hairy, and ugly.

None of that, it seems, matters if there is as much as the tiniest chance that someone, somewhere, at some time or place, might be offended. Given the tiniest risk of offence, it is apparently preferable to allow some college graduate from somewhere to entirely re-write Roald Dahl’s work, and substitute entire lines of his writing for their own, more politically correct jokes.

It would be one thing, I think – still stupid but at least understandable – if the publishers of Dahl’s work were to decide that the thing to do was to put disclaimers on his books: These books were written in a different era, and some of the jokes in them might not be appropriate today.

But that is not what has happened. Instead, children will read books that say on their covers that they are written by Roald Dahl, but which have instead had large sections of them re-written by socially conscious gender studies graduates.

History has stopped. The books have been re-written. The records falsified.

To understand the progressive cultural revolution, you must understand that it is just that: A revolution. Roald Dahl’s books are not its first victims, and certainly won’t be its last. The impulse to re-write his books is the same impulse that wants to re-name the Berkely Library in Trinity College. The same impulse that pulls down statues and throws them in rivers. The same impulse that cancels not only works of art, but people.

Most eras of human history have their own social mores and customs. The difference with this era is the insistence that only one set of values may be reflected in this culture: That which is not tolerable to progressivism must be destroyed, regardless of its age, or of the value previous generations placed on it.

What can those of us who wish to resist it do? Well, in my case, it will be to make sure that the children in my life have access to the works of Roald Dahl, unedited, and unchanged. With the whisper that this is what they don’t want you to read. I would encourage you, if you feel as I do, to do the same.

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