Dahl-ing with Adulthood

ADULTHOOD IS THE WORST. I’ve been whining about this for the past few weeks, nay, months, but I’ll happily say it again. Five months after I reluctantly donned the mantle of adulthood and started working full-time I’m still not used to it. And I definitely don’t enjoy it. I miss the days when my only worries were completing an essay on time, wondering what to eat for lunch (I still worry about that), and deciding what to do with ALL MY FREE TIME. Now, working nine hours a day means that I have hardly any time to pursue any kind of hobbies post-work. I’m usually so exhausted that I cannot handle any activity that requires even a small amount of intellectual exertion. Mercifully, I do get the weekends off. A while ago I had a particularly exhausting week at work coupled with being slightly ill. Desperately  in need of something to restore my faith in the universe, I chose to re-read a childhood favourite: Matilda.

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There’s something about Roald Dahl’s books that makes me smile even before I start reading. I love how quirky both his writing style and the themes he writes about are. I think I’ve read all of Dahl’s works, but my favourites are Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. The first time I read Matilda, I was probably ten or twelve years old. I remember enjoying the book immensely even back then. But reading it again as an adult made me appreciate just how talented a writer Dahl was. The premise of Matilda is rather depressing: a gifted girl is neglected and verbally abused by her ignorant parents. But Dahl’s writing style and Quentin Blake’s brilliant illustrations infuse humour even into this morbid situation. Dahl creates characters that are exaggerated caricatures, but he does it with such flair that he makes them believable. Even after all these years and despite being a (reluctant) adult, I still found myself hating Mrs. Trunchbull and the Wormwoods with every fibre of my being. Dahl also has a delightful writing style that makes this book a very fun read. How can you help but laugh at lines such as:

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful…It is only when parents begin telling us about the brilliance of their own revolting offspring, that we start shouting, ‘Bring us a basin! We’re going to be sick!’ (1)

‘You ignorant little slug!’ the Trunchbull bellowed. ‘You witless weed! You empty-headed hamster! You stupid glob of glue!’ (142)

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It is now my life’s ambition to use the phrase “stupid glob of glue”on someone and mean it. The language Dahl uses is refined, without being difficult or pretentious. And of course, the insults are simply delightful. Thank you, Roald Dahl, for enriching my vocabulary in the best possible way. Reading Dahl not only allows me to revisit my childhood, it also creates a version of childhood that I wish I could have. Admittedly, the characters in his novels have to deal with some pretty weird stuff (telepathic powers, a marauding giant peach, oompa loompas), but I’d much rather deal with that than client meetings and deadlines. It’s the combination of the absurd and the mundane that makes Dahl’s stories such a delight to read and revisit, and my love for fantasy probably stemmed from reading Dahl. Dahl and his stories help me believe in a world that is wonderfully weird, a world where no matter how absurd the problem, things have a way of working out in the end. I wish adulthood was that easy.

Re-reading Matilda that weekend was just the pick-me-up I needed. For the time I spent reading the book, I blissfully went back to being a kid again. I guess the only way I know to deal with this “adulthood” problem right now is to find ways to escape into my childhood every now and again. Maybe it’ll get better with time, but I’m not ready to be a fully functional adult just yet.

 

Dahl, Roald. Matilda. London: Penguin, 2001. Print.

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