10 lessons from Roald Dahl books that prepared us for adulthood
When I was little, I wanted more than anything to live within the pages of a Roald Dahl book, where chocolate ran in rivers and giant peaches were a form of transportation.
Roald Dahl wrote many children’s books that came to impact readers of all ages. Each book serves up a delightful read and imaginary characters you come to know and adore.
To appreciate the memories, here are 10 life lessons we learned from Dahl’s books that apply to our grown-up lives:
1. Learn lessons from those who are different from you
In “James and the Giant Peach,” James befriends giant bugs who become like family to him, after longing to belong and be loved. The same goes for Sophie in “The BFG,” who takes a chance and befriends a giant, whom she comes to have an incredibly rewarding relationship.
It’s important not to rule out friendships with people who are different from us.
Moral of the story: Variety is the spice of life.
2. It’s okay to be different
Many of Dahl’s strongest characters certainly don’t fit in with the crowd. Willy Wonka is an extremely eccentric man; Matilda’s family only enjoys watching TV, while she prefers reading; James’ aunts have nothing in common with him, and he longs for something more.
Moral of the story: Being unique can be magical.
3. Independence is key
Many of the child protagonists’ parents or guardians in Dahl’s books are cruel and crude. This is true for “James and the Giant Peach,” “Matilda” and “The Witches,” to name a few. In these tales, the children have to take situations into their own hands to find enjoyment in life.
Dahl teaches us that we won’t always have parents to act as our infallible role models.
Moral of the story: We need to be able to support ourselves.
4. Reading is good for the soul
Matilda teaches us that people can escape through reading, as she struggles to understand or be understood by her own family. A great quote from the book reads; 'The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She traveled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.' Moral of the story: Reading can transport us to imaginary respites that can bring us much joy.
5. Sometimes, dreams do come true
Charlie longs for a golden ticket to get into Willy Wonka’s factory. Guess what? He gets the ticket and, eventually, the entire factory. Matilda’s family mistreats her, and she longs for a nicer family; eventually, she ends up with her loving teacher, Miss Honey.
James longs for playmates and a nicer family, too. He ultimately lives in Manhattan in a giant peach pit, with friends surrounding him.
Moral of the story: The things for which we wish become reality if we do right by others and by ourselves.
6. Two wrongs don’t make a right
In “The BFG,” the Big Friendly Giant refuses to use violence against other giants, even though they’re violent against humans. Instead, he talks to the Queen of England (diplomacy for kids!), and together, they devise a way to capture the giants and punish them humanely.
Moral of the story: Making good is never achieved through acting badly.
7. Appearances can be deceiving
The giant in “The BFG” is, in fact, a big friendly giant. In “The Witches,” the witches take on the appearances of totally normal-looking, attractive women. In “James and the Giant Peach,” James befriends giant bugs, which upon first glance, seem terrifying.
All of these Roald Dahl books point out the importance of making character-based judgments, rather than appearance.
Moral of the story: Don’t judge a book by its cover (pun intended).
8. You should always be confident in your abilities
Mr. Fox from the “Fantastic Mr. Fox” oozes self-confidence, and because of this, he achieves a lot. Of course, it’s not right to reach the point of arrogance, but this character proves that with enough self-assurance, great things can happen.
Moral of the story: Believe in yourself and in your dreams.
9. Make the best of your situation
Many of Dahl’s characters are in extremely unfortunate situations. Charlie’s family is devastatingly poor. Matilda’s family is horribly mean to her, and James’ aunts barely feed him and keep him locked in his room all the time.
These three do the best they can to make the best of what they have. When they realize it’s not good enough, they try to change it. This ultimately leads them to more fruitful lives.
Moral of the story: We can break free from bad people and bad situations if we put our minds to it.
10. A little bit of mischief doesn’t hurt
Above all, Roald Dahl’s books are intended for children, and they perfectly articulate what children do best: be cheekily mischievous.
Moral of the story: Being a little bit of a rascal can make life more interesting.