Everybody knows the classic children’s author Roald Dahl, or at least they know his work. He wrote classics like Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, BFG, James and the Giant Peach and more.
Well, now, the woke are re-writing his books to make them more politically correct.
Here are some of the changes made, according to The Telegraph.
In Matilda, the term “mothers and fathers” is replaced with “parents.” The phrase “turning white” is replaced with “turning pale.” A description of a “plain plump person” is edited to omit the word “plump.” The meaning of a passage describing an unattentive student as having “no hearing-organs” is removed and changed entirely. (Ableism! Or something.) And much, much more.
In James and the Giant Peach, the “cloud men” are now the “cloud people.” The “policemen and firemen” are now “police officers and firefighters.” The description of a “queer ramshackle house” is re-written as a “strange ramshackle house.” Innumerable descriptions of characters as fat are removed. A reference to hunters killing an elephant is removed and replaced with them killing generic “prey.”
It only gets weirder from there.
In Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, descriptions of August Gloop are watered down to greatly reduce references to his extreme obesity — even though that’s a central aspect of the child’s character. References to one of the other children, Mike Teavee, having toy guns are stripped entirely from the text.
Meanwhile, the Oompa Loompas are made gender-neutral—and their entire origin story is rewritten so it no longer involves their tribe’s capture and transportation to Willy Wonka’s factory but is instead a harmonious and voluntary arrangement.
These are just a few examples from a few of his most prominent works. But the full list of revisions is breathtaking in its scope. These changes are being made by the publisher in accordance with the Dahl family by working with a firm that provides “sensitivity readers” to edit a text to supposedly make it more “inclusive.” Yet in reality, it’s an unhinged attack on literature that serves no actual purpose but pissing on classics.
Let’s be clear about the fact that very few, if any, people were out there unable to sleep at night haunted by slightly outdated language in these classic books. So, this is a heavy-handed “solution” to a problem that does not exist. And it contravenes everything that makes literature valuable.
You don’t have to take my word for it. The CEO of PEN America, a liberal-leaning literature group that defends literary free expression, has come out swinging against this Orwellian act of censorship.
“At PEN America we are alarmed at news of “hundreds of changes” to venerated works by Roald Dahl in a purported effort to scrub the books of that which might offend someone,” Suzanne Nossel said. “The problem with taking license to re-edit classic works is that there is no limiting principle. You start out wanting to replace a word here and a word there, and end up inserting entirely new ideas (as has been done to Dahl’s work).”
“Literature is meant to be surprising and provocative. That’s part of its potency. By setting out to remove any reference that might cause offense you dilute the power of storytelling. Better than playing around with these texts is to offer introductory context that prepares people for what they are about to read, and helps them understand the setting in which it was written.”
No less a literary legend and free expression icon than Salmon Rushdie has also condemned the rewriting.
Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship. Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed. https://t.co/sdjMfBr7WW
— Salman Rushdie (@SalmanRushdie) February 18, 2023
Their criticisms are spot-on.
Dahl was indeed a flawed man, and yes, like most books written decades ago, his works do include outdated language or references one wouldn’t make today. But that’s a reason to provide readers with context and discussion, not to retroactively censor a dead author’s masterpieces.