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ENGL 2323.730 January 24,2018 Roald Dahl: James and the Giant Peach Roald Dahl the British children’s author was born September 13, 1916 in Llandaff, Wales. He was the only boy of the marriage, having six sisters. At the age of three, old his dad and older sister passed away, leaving his mother to provide for the rest of her children by herself (Roald Dahl Biography). After his father’s passing, his mother placed him in Llandaff Cathedral School. Dahl ran into trouble on the first day by attempting to play a prank. A short time after the disciplinary action, Dahl’s mother unenrolled him from the Cathedral School and placed him to St. Peter’s, which at the time, was a boarding school. Before Dahl’s father died, his wish was that his son would attend this school because St. Peter’s had a reputation of being an excellent academic school. Even though this was the case, the young, wild, and mischievous Dahl did not seem to fit the part. He later transferred, for a second time, to Repton where he refused to follow any instruction, wanting only to be free and travel the world. After successfully graduating from Repton, he refused to accept the offer from his mother to financially support him to go on to Oxford or Cambridge University.
Upon his return a trip to Newfoundland, he got a job for Shell Oil Company in Tanzania, Africa, where he worked for seven years (Roald Dahl). After his time in Tanzania, he became a World War II fighter pilot in the British Air Force. He was stationed in the Mediterranean where he at one time encountered an emergency and had to crash land in Alexandria, Egypt. This emergency left him with serious injuries to his head, back, and hip causing him to have to have to a hip replacement and two back surgeries. He was then transferred to Washington DC where he became an assistant air attache. (Roald Dahl). Once he was transferred to Washington DC where he met a writer who would influence him to begin his career in writing. C.S. Forester, a reporter for the Saturday Evening Post, encouraged Dahl to write down his different experiences and stories from his time in World War II and for him to publish them. Dahl wrote so effectively that Forester reached back out to Dahl and told him that he should become a writer because he had not had to change a bit of the piece. This began the beginning of his writing career, with the article “Shot Down Over Libya”, published in 1942. After writing short stories for newspapers for a year Dahl published his first children’s book The Gremlinswith the help of Walt Disney.
The book was not considered much of a childrens book but did catch the eye of Eleanor Roosevelt. Dahl soon became a frequent visitor of the White House because of Mrs. Roosevelt’s support. His career in children’s books did not really take off until he and his wife had kids in the 1960’s (Roald Dahl Biography). Dahl and his wife Patricia Neal, an award winning actress, got married on July 2, 1953, a year later they purchased Little Whitefield farm house which he later renamed Gipsy House in England. The following year Dahl’s first daughter, Olivia, was born on April 20. Two years later on April 11 his second daughter Tessa was born and on July 30, 1960 the two had their first son, Theo (Howard).
Around this time is when Dahl began to write his first childrens’ book. He got the ideas for them from the bedtime stories he made up for his daughters and son. Those stories eventually sparked enough ideas for Dahl to write James and the Giant Peach publishing it in the US in 1961 and six years later in the UK (Roald Dahl Biography). The publication of the book established Dahl as a children’s book writer and was met with wide critical and commercial acclaim (Roald Dahl). The following year Dahl’s daughter Olivia died from measles encephalitis, which is measles along with swelling of the brain which leads to convulsions (Complications). Two years later he published Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was met with much success all over the world. The inspiration for the story came from his childhood days at Repton when Cadbury Chocolates would bring boxes of twelve candies for the boys to sample and critique (Howard). In 1971, Hollywood made the book come to life with the movie production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factorystarring Gene Wilder. Dahl was not a fan of the film, but the movie was very popular (Roald Dahl Biography). The books following his first two success were no different. The small hut at the bottom of his garden where he wrote all his books bloomed more best sellers with the publications of The BFG, The Twits, The Witches, Matilda, and Boy (Baldwin). In 1965 Patricia Neal suffered three strokes and was admitted into the hospital in February, three months later she was home and in August their daughter Sophie was born. The two separated in 1979, and later got a divorce in 1983. Dahl met Felicity Crosland in 1972 after growing up on the same street, the two become inseparable and married after his divorce (Roald Dahl Biography).
The following year Boy came out and five years later Matilda was published and The BFG in 1989 (Howard).In 1990 everything turned for the worse in Dahl’s life. His usual routine of looking through his fan mail from 9:30 – 10:30, filling his thermos of coffee, writing till lunch and then returning to his cosy hut to write for another couple of hours on a yellow pad of paper in pencil was broken (Roald Dahl Biography). Dahl suffered an unspecified infection on November 12, 1990 and was admitted into John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. He died there eleven days later at the age of seventy-four. During his life-time he composed nineteen childrens’ books and nine short stories (Roald Dahl).
Over his seventy-four year span he experienced many family tragedies, had two steel hips and six spinal operations (Baldwin). He was also a big contributor to charities and in his honor his widow, Felicity Crosland, established the Roald Dahl Foundation, which promotes literacy, and research in neurology and hematology. She chose each based on Dahl’s life, literacy because all Dahl’s life he fought to make reading more enjoyable, research in neurology because of the many cases that affected his family, and hematology because of his suffering from Myelo-dysplastic anemia (Roald Dahl Biography). He is now buried in the Churchyard of St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, Great Missenden (Baldwin).
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