Saturday, April 20, 2013

Book Review: Boy: Tales of Childhood, Roald Dahl

This is an autobiographical history by Roald Dahl.  It was published in 1984.  He tells of his early life, particularly the British school system.  The most remarkable thing about this book is the use of corporal punishment used by the head masters, and then later the prefects.  Dahl was raised mostly by his mother.  His father and older sister both passed away when he was young.  While attending Llandiff Cathedral School in Carduff in 1924, he would have been eight, he and his buddies performed a trick on the lady at the local candy shop.  They distracted her, and put a dead mouse in the jar of gobstoppers.  The lady showed up at the school the next day, which lead to he and his four companions being caned by the headmaster while the candy lady looked on, encouraging harder blows.  The caning was done by requiring the boys to bend over and drop their drawers.  The cane was then brought to bear four times across the buttocks, drawing blood.  The blows were struck slowly so they would have he most effect.
His mother, when she saw the damage done, determined to remove him from the school, and the next year he attended boarding school.  However the canings didn't stop.  At his next school, St. Peters in Weston Super-Mare, he was also caned.  However this time, there was really no reason for his being caned.  he was accused falsely of trying to cheat.  When he tried to explain this to the head master, the head master only asked if he was calling the teacher a liar.  As he couldn't say this, he received six blows with the cane.  In this case the blows were farther apart for more pain effect, and included a lecture in between blows.
He attended Repton School in Derbyshire for secundary education.  In this school, the Boars (prefects) took care of discipline.  They made the younger students do many degrading things.  Dahl had to warm the seat for a Boar, sitting on it 15 minutes to make sure it was warm.
The book is not only about school life.  We also see Dahl's yearly family vacations Norway, where they would see family, but also go into the fjord where they would spend a month recreating, swimming and fishing and sun bathing on rocks.  On one trip Dahl played a trick on his older sister's fiance, as he put goat droppings in his pipe in place of tobacco.  The fiance noticed and said he was poisoned, but before he could extract revenge everyone jumped in and went swimming.
This was an enjoyable read.  The book pretty much ends after his school years, but he mentions that he was a pilot in WWII

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