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  • Damaris Chanza

Roald Dahl's Work Inspired My Career

Today is Roald Dahl's birthday, and I would love to share how his work helped me fall in love with writing.

If you didn't instantly recognize his name, Roald Dahl is a famous children's author. Even if you weren't much of a reader, you've definitely seen or at least heard of the movies based on his books. Dahl is responsible for classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach.

With internet memes, shorts, and reels, I guarantee if you haven't seen the whole movie, you've at least seen some of the most classic and memorable scenes initially written by Roald Dahl. You've heard the darkly comedic songs of the Oompa-Loompas in Willy Wonka's fantastical factory. You've seen Bruce Bogtrotter triumphantly eat a giant chocolate cake made to look disgusting by his principal and lunch lady, who forced him to eat it on stage in front of the entire student body. You've seen the slightly disturbing appearance of the anthropomorphic bugs James befriends in his giant peach. You've even seen the horrifying and almost traumatizing transformation of Bruno Jenkins into a rat in The Witches.

Dahl's children's fiction has immensely influenced my childhood and many others, I'm sure. However, his writing has not been without controversy. Oompa-Loompas have been criticized as depictions of subservient African slaves. Dahl's grotesque and evil depiction of fat women and the women in The Witches has been criticized as misogynistic. I will never know what Dahl's true intentions were, and I can somewhat agree with these criticisms, but that doesn't change the impact of his work. His potential beliefs may have been partially ingrained into the subtext of his books, but the greater thematic purpose of children succeeding against evil forces in wicked and whimsical ways is not lost.

I love books and movies, so I've read and seen his work. I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so many times in elementary school I could recite the Oompa-Loompa songs almost entirely from memory. My book copy was worn and falling apart and eventually confused with garbage. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is probably one of the reasons I fell in love with books and language. Dahl's manipulation of the English language to invent words that still made sense within the story's context was extraordinary for me. It was also confusing because I was still developing my reading ability, but learning his nonsense words made me feel like I had a special secret that only select people were a part of.

Words like scrumdiddlyumptious, hornswogglers, snozzwangers, and whangdoodles are formed ultimately from Dahl's imagination. I may not invent new words that end up in the dictionary as Dahl did, but I still try to manipulate strings of words into sentences. Reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory planted a seed of interest that has blossomed into a love and transformed into a dream that I've nurtured into a career.

Roald Dahl may have written some controversial characters, but his overall contribution to children's literature is immeasurable. His work reached a vast audience and inspired countless movies. More importantly, who knows how many kids like me read one of his books or saw one of the movies, and the story completely changed their way of thinking. Roald Dahl could have sparked inspiration and passion for any number of people in the world as he did me.

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