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Boy: Tales of Childhood (1984) is the first autobiographical book by British writer Roald Dahl. It describes his life from birth until leaving school, especially focusing on living conditions in Britainmarker in the 1920s and 1930s, the public school system at the time, and how his childhood experiences led him to writing as a career. It ends with his first job, working for Royal Dutch Shell. His autobiography continues in Going Solo.

Key points in the story

  • Dahl's ancestry: Dahl's parents were Norwegianmarker immigrants who came to Walesmarker in about 1910 after his father and his brother decided to split up and go their separate ways from Paris. His father was more than twenty years older than his mother; he was born in 1863 and she was born in 1885. By the time Roald was born in 1916, his father was 53 years old. His father had lost an arm after falling from the roof of his house at the age of fourteen, and had two children from his first wife, who had died shortly after the birth of their second child.
  • Roald's family tragedy: Roald's older sister Astri (his mother's first child) died of appendicitis in 1920, when Roald was only three years old. His father died of pneumonia two months later at the age of 57. This tragedy came shortly before the birth of his mother's fifth and final child (a girl)
  • Kindergarten: Roald started at kindergarten when he was four years old, but has very few memories of his time there. The kindergarten, near his home in South Walesmarker, was the Elm Tree House primary school that remained active until 2004.
  • Candies: Roald talks about different confectionery, his love of sweets, and his fascination with the local sweet shop. He also writes of the free samples of Cadbury chocolate bars given to him and his schoolmates for evaluation. Young Dahl dreamed of working as an inventor for Cadbury, an idea he has said later inspired Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
  • The Great mouse Plot of 1924: By the age of seven, Roald was attending Llandaff Cathedral School in the Welshmarker city of Cardiffmarker. He and his friends had a grudge against the local sweet-shop owner, Mrs. Pratchett, a sour elderly widow who gave no thought to hygiene. They played a prank on her by putting a dead mouse in a gobstopper jar, and they were caned by the school headmaster as a punishment, while Mrs. Pratchett watched on in laughter.
  • St Peter's School, Weston-super-Mare: Roald moved to St Peter's School, a boarding school in Weston-super-Maremarker, at the age of nine (1925-1929). The most significant event during his time at St Peter's was a caning by the headmaster in which he was given six strokes after he was wrongly accused of cheating during an assignment. Other major events during his time at the school centred around the matron, who sprinkled soap shavings into the mouth of a boy who snored, and sent a six- year-old boy to be caned by the head teacher as punishment for throwing a sponge across the dormitory. On a lighter note, a boy in Roald's dormitory sprinkled sugar over the corridor floor and the matron walked through it, though he was lucky enough to get away with it because he wouldn't own up and none of his friends would turn him in. The whole school had to go hungry when the headmaster decided to confiscate food parcels coming from the boys' home as punishment for the sprinkled sugar.
  • Goat's Tobacco: On one of Roald's visits to his grandparents in Norwaymarker, he placed goat droppings in his older sister's fiancĂ©'s pipe, thus making him scream and suffer a coughing fit. Later on, one of Roald Dahl's sisters let slip what happened therefore making his sister's lover chase them into the sea.
  • Repton: At the age of thirteen, in 1929, Roald moved to Repton Schoolmarker in Derbyshiremarker (a decision based entirely on the fact that the school's name was easier to pronounce than his other choice, Marlborough), where he tells of the fagging duties which he had to perform for "Boazers", as well as the occasion when his friend received ten lashes of the cane from the headmaster as punishment for bad behaviour. The headmaster of the time was, according to Dahl, Geoffrey Francis Fisher; who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury and crowned the Queen in 1953. However, according to Dahl's biographer Jeremy Treglown, the beating took place in May 1933, a year after Fisher had left Repton. The headmaster concerned was in fact J.T. Christie, Fisher's successor.


  • A drive in the motorcar: This event happened when Dahl was nine and his sister (twenty one at the time) were driving their first car. She was driving at 35-40 mph when a sudden bend came up. When they crashed Roald flew out the car. When he got up it is said that his nose was hanging on by a small thread of skin. He was taken to the family doctors on Cardiff Cathedral Road.


Notes

  1. Jeremy Treglown, Roald Dahl: a biography (1994) , Faber and Faber, page 21.


Editions

  • ISBN 0-14-131140-1 (paperback, 2004)
  • ISBN 0-14-130305-0 (paperback, 2001)
  • ISBN 0-14-015682-8 (paperback, 1992)
  • ISBN 0-14-008917-9 (paperback, 1986)
  • ISBN 0-435-12300-9 (hardcover, 1986)



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