Censorship of Dahl’s novels is the top of a slippery slope

Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant

British publisher Puffin Books is facing backlash for censoring Roald Dahl’s classic children’s books.

The idea of censorship in any form of media is a highly debated topic, but offering multiple versions of a text and leaving it up to the reader’s discretion as to which they’d like to read, edited or unedited, is one potential solution.

CNN reported that current editions of Dahl’s books, including classics like “Matilda,” “The BFG” and even “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” were revised by an organization called Inclusive Minds, a group that claims to support children’s book companies in an “authentic” way.

Language that pertained to gender, race, weight, mental health and violence was removed or altered. For instance, Augustus Gloop, the antagonist in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” became “enormous” instead of “enormously fat.”

Puffin Books received major backlash for these changes, leading the company to announce that original versions of the text will continue to be published alongside the modified version.

“We recognize the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print,” Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House Children’s in the U.K., said in a statement. “By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvelous stories.”

Censorship, in any form, can majorly influence mainstream thought. From July 2021 to June 2022, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists 2,532 instances of individual books being banned,

Many expressed outrage at Puffin’s move to scrub Dahl’s original works of their colorful language. Award-winning author Salman Rushdie pointed out that Dahl “was no angel,” but still maintained that the changes to his work were “absurd.”

Camilla, the Queen Consort of the United Kingdom, urged writers to stay true to themselves in the face of censorship.

“Remain true to your calling, unimpeded by those who may wish to curb the freedom of your expression or impose limits on your imagination,” Queen Consort Camilla said.

Dahl is a controversial figure who has openly expressed racist, antisemitic views in the past. Thus, the publishing company’s decision to revise Dahl’s work is an understandable public relations move.

But debates surrounding censorship often miss a crucial piece of the puzzle: context. Context matters in certain situations. Instead of deeming all literary works with language unsuitable to a modern audience as unpublishable, companies must approach each book case-by-case.

News of the changes to Dahl’s work brings to the table the topic of censorship specifically towards children since Dahl is regarded as a best-selling children’s book author.

If some people are uncomfortable with certain phrases being used in literary pieces, they have every right to voice their opinions, but they should not be upset if publishing companies bar others from having access to these works.

Literary censorship of Roald Dahl’s work has frightening future implications on the literary sphere. Hopefully, Dahl’s popularity means that people will open their eyes to this issue before it descends a slippery slope.

Literary pieces of the past must be examined but not completely erased from existence.