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Repositioning Roald Dahl : morality and fantasy in Dahl’s life and writing for children

Pojana Maneeyingsakul


Pojana Maneeyingsakul



This thesis aims to reposition Roald Dahl and his children’s fiction in the evolution of the morality debate in other popular children’s writers. His works for children, which were written during the last three decades of his life, have been frequently attacked by critics on grounds of violence, racism, and sexism. Dahl’s narrative treatment of his characters and his moral outlook are seen as problematic since his texts often feature amoral adult enemies of the child characters, and an unsentimental and subversive view of families. They have equally been subject to debate over their ‘suitability,’ and some have been challenged and banned. The author himself denies preaching morality, yet his child characters become moral crusaders and there are moral undertones and overt moral messages in his books.

As a non-Western reader, I discovered that Dahl’s stories fire the imagination of both adults and children, but there remains a contradictory treatment of social decency in the texts. Dahl criticism drives my investigation of the relationship between morality, reading, and interpretation in his fiction. Throughout the thesis, I apply close reading techniques to examine the way in which Dahl engages with moral issues in his works. Chapter One examines Dahl’s exceptional life through his autobiographies, and children’s and adult biographies to uncover Dahl’s contradictory personality. Several of his tragic experiences inform the issue of psychological trauma which is discussed in Chapter Two where Dahl appears briefly to acknowledge trauma but minimises the impact on his protagonists who subsequently become more resilient and optimistic. Chapter Three interrogates gender bias and negative representation of men and women, while Chapter Four focuses in detail on how humour, wordplay, and neologism play crucial roles in his comic fantasy. Chapter Five explores the case of his continuing posthumous popularity as evidenced by his endorsement by marketing campaigns, culminating in his 2016 centenary celebration, while the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter series poses a new challenge to his dominance of the market. The thesis as a whole, therefore, reappraises Dahl’s works, the significance of his moral position, and his ongoing impact in the twenty-first century.


Pojana Maneeyingsakul. (2021). Repositioning Roald Dahl : morality and fantasy in Dahl’s life and writing for children. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Apr 9, 2021
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords English
Public URL
Additional Information Department of English, The University of Hull
Award Date Jan 1, 2021


Thesis (3.3 Mb)

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© 2021 Pojana Maneeyingsakul. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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