Thursday, 27 October 2016

Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

Danny the Champion of the World is a homage to good parenting, especially good parenting by a loving father.

It's also about courage, loyalty and a little bit of class politics.

Danny extols the virtues of working class values, but as with all Dahl books, he subverts it a little. Honesty and the concept of being a law-abiding citizen are given a little Dahl-esque tweak.

Danny could be read as a modern day Robin Hood, except the class divide commentary is never really fully resolved here.

The local rich guy is too obviously the baddie and the idea of poaching being an art form is just a tad too convenient.

We all know that the simple, clean, wholesome life that Danny and his dad enjoyed is not the real picture of working class poverty. There may not be any magical elements in this particular Dahl story, but there is a lot of wish-fulfilment and whimsy.

Danny is rightly concerned about the ethics of stealing the pheasants. Having the entire village in on the scheme, doesn't really make it proper. But Dahl doesn't confront or challenge this dilemma at all which I found very curious and the one thing that would stop me recommending this book whole-heartedly.

Perhaps, though, it could become a good discussion about what to do when the adults in your life are doing something illegal? Or about the shades of grey that exist within some laws and some traditions? Or it could even be the opportunity to tackle the big question of class inequality - why some people are poor and don't have enough to eat well while others wilfully waste the abundance that they do have?

Even Dahl's final message to the reader is loaded with ambiguity and class tension.

As a child I would have found this message quite confronting because I knew from a very young age that your didn't always get what you deserved, let alone what you wanted.

A Message 
to Children Who Have Read This Book 

When you grow up 
and have children of your own
do please remember
something important

a stodgy parent is no fun at all

What a child wants
and deserves
is a parent who is 

SPARKY

Danny is part of my 1001 Children's Books to Read Before I Die challenge.

2 comments:

  1. I love this book -- I think it's possibly my favorite middle grade book of all time, definitely my favorite by Roald Dahl. I love the relationship of Danny and his father. There are so many terrible or absent fathers in children's literature! Also this book has some of the best food ever -- I remember really wanting to eat a raised meat pie or toad-in-the-hole when I was young!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! The meat pie with surprised boiled eggs in it actually sounded very tempted!

      I can see why this father/son relationship has struck such a strong chord with so many readers. It really was a lovely representation of fatherly love and care & reminded me of Mr Books with his boys when they were young (except for the pheasant stealing stuff!)

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