Author: Roald Dahl
Date: 1970 (original in 1948)
Number of pages: 269 pages
Publisher: Cox & Wyman Ltd
As you know I started making this piece of handelingsdeel a little too late, therefore I was pressured to find a book in no-time. I know Roald Dalh is a good autor of course so I decided to take the first book on the list which was written by Roald and which had a nice title. And in the end I am happy I made this choice as the book was amusing and not too long winded.
As this is a story-collection I will pick out the stories which were most interesting / amusing. It will get a little too long if I make a summary on each single story. So here we go:
This story is about a meeting between people who are very found of tasting the most extraordinary wines. Each time they meet they make a little bet, if Richard (one of these people) can gues from what vineyard the wine comes only by tasting it he wins the bottle of wine. But this time the betters started to bluf a little and after some time Richard bet all his property and Mike (the other person) bet his daughther! The tasting started and Richard managed to pick exactly the right vineyard, but then the buttler discovered he’s been cheating as he found Richard’s hat in the cellar where the wine was stored!
Lamb to the Slaughter:
Mary disagreed with her husband one day, in a strange moment of ‘thinking’ she decided to hit him with a lambstick, since this piece of meat was almost frozen it worked like a bat which killed her husband easily. To hide the weapon she put it in the range and called the police. During the research she invites the policemen to have a meal, gues what they where eating: lambstick. During this meal one of the men said the hilaric words: “Maybe the weapon is just under our nose”
Man of the south
A boy and his girlfriend are in a swimmingpool, at a certain moment a strange man comes towards them. This man asked the boy to make a most extraordinary bet: he says that if the boy can light his lighter ten times in a row the boy can have his Cadillac. But if the boy loses he will have to pay with the smallest finger on his left hand.
The boy agrees with this bet so the man ties the boy’s finger and takes a knife. The boy starts lighting his lighter, after 8 times the man’s wife enters the room. She tells the man to stop immediately since he actually doesn’t own anything, the car is the car of his wife, but gues how that happened: the man lost all of his property to his wife! When the wife takes back the carkeys the boy sees that she has only 2 fingers on her left hand! A strange story with a doubleplot!
This is a short and weird story about a man who came back home after letting out his dog, once he wants to go sleeping he meets someone else than his wife in his bed! This confusion was too much for him and in a strange act of agression he kills the person who seems to be a friend of his wife afterwards.. What a shame!
2 people who are very found of playing bridge decided to invite some high level bridgers just to have a nice weekend. But as time passes and the weekend is getting closer the wife of the couple gets a little hestitating, she heard that the people they are about to invite are really dull people. So she thinks of a little game to play with them; she wants to figure out how their love-life is. Her husband has a job in the radio-business so she asks him to get a microphone in the room for their guests to find out what they discuss during the night. In the begin her husband doesn’t agree, but after a long attempt of her to get him crazy enough he agrees with the plan. The evening comes and their guests seem to be quite OK, they are extremely good in bridge however and win all but 1 game! When the night starts the couple gets excited to find out what happens in the next room, so when they start listening they find out that the boy they invited has a really freaky way of cheating on the bridgegame, he studied a whole “language” with his partner. At that point the man in the other room (the host) starts to think those people are really insane, but his wife liked the idea and the poor man is doomed to play bridge forever…
Dip in the pool:
During a boattrip on a luxurious cruise ship the rich people on the boat have a special kind of lottery, they bet how many miles they will sail during the next 24 hours. A less rich person on the boat decides to participate in the lottery for once, he knew the weather was bad so he was pretty sure they wouldn’t get too far that day. He placed an enormous bet that they wouldn’t get really far. Of course the weather changed and things looked really bad for the man, he decided that he could delay the ship if he’d jump off the ship, the ship would have to return to catch him out of the water. So he decides to jump in the sea, of course there had to be another person on the deck to alarm the captain to turn around so he waited on the deck until there was another person. Then he jumped, the woman started to scream out loud of course, so her daugther can on the deck: “ah there you are” and because the woman was highly dementating the daugther didn’t believe her when she told what happened. That’s what you’d call bad luck for the poor man!
This is a really weird story about a man (Perkins) who goes to his work on the same line and with the same people every single day. Each time something new happens is a whole interruption in their routine. So after some time a new person goes on the same route. For some weird reason this person seems to be familiar to the traveler, he starts to figure out where he saw this man before… Then after a couple of days he;s got it! This is the man who used to be his “commander” at the college he was on, they always (had to) sleep in the same room. The man was called Foxely and because of this weird way (running into him with force) of punishing Perkins when he failed to do something perfect they called him Galloping Foxely when he wasn’t around. So Perkins makes up a good plan to take back on this Foxely when he sees him in the train again: he’s going to talk to him just laud enough to make sure everybody in the train can hear it and make some fun of the bad habits this Foxely used to have. He hopes this is so embarrasing that Foxely is going to be ashamed of all his bad moves.. So next day they meet again in the train and Perkins gives it a go… He walks towards the man and says: “My name is Perkins – William Perkins – and I was at Repton in 1907 ”. The man looks a little confused and says in same voice: “I’m glad to meet you, mine’s Fortescue –Jocelyn Fortescue – Eton, 1916”
See assignment A from the in depth analysis
Timber comes home after a long day of working, when he enters his room he finds Harry shaking all over. Harry tells Timber not to move, and in a low voice he explains there is a scorpion on his body but it is under his bedsheet. He asks Timber to get a doctor to free him from the scorpion. The doctor comes and he mixes a serum against the poison of the scorpion, but he says it isn’t guaranteed that the serum will work, so the doctor uses a special gas to make the scorpion asleep. But once they remove the bedsheet there is no scorpion at all….
A young boy thinks of a ‘funny game’ to play, the carpet laying on the floor of the living room in their house has 3 colors: red, yellow and black. The boy imagines the yellow parts are safespots, the red parts are fire and the black parts are snakes. He has to pass the living room by walking over the yellow spots only. He almost gets there but just on the last step his legs are almost in a split and he starts to fall in a piece of snakes. Just before he hits the ground his mother calls him which suddenly breaks off the fantasy world and drags back the boy into the grownup world…
The sound machine:
A scientist has managed to find out a machine which changes the ‘signals’ of trees into human screeches. This machine is of course a huge change in the science so when a big doctor comes over to listen to the trees through his machine. The scientist cuts down a tree and it accidently falls on the machine… What a waste!
I really liked reading this book, although it was a little short time it was really fun to read. The best thing I liked about it was that the stories managed to get your attention in no-time and they were quite easy to read. Once you are entirely into the story the author goes over to his little ‘joke’ and the story suddendly ends… You are kinda shocked because of the sudden end and the unexpected turnout and then the next story starts. In this way you can’t easily forget the story and you catch the joke a little too slow. I don’t know what Roald’s little trick is to catch attention, but I can tell you it works incredibly well, even is you don’t understand a big load of words you do catch up with the story. And as I’ve been reading it outside in the sun I wasn’t perfectly concentrated to catch up every single word but still I got swung into the storyline and I understood all the jokes at once. This gives a great feeling to a junior english reader
In depth Analysis:
I took assignment 23 for the A-part of the in depth analysis, because I like to look at texts in a little different way than they are originally ment. I took the story Skin which is about a man who got tattooed by some Russian artist (unknown at that time) on his back. A long time after that the soldier was old, poor and weak. He takes a look at a presentation of some of the works of the Russian artist, but once he enters some guards throw him out. The man doesn’t accept this so he runs all the way to a central position where everybody can see him and he shows his back. Immediately some rich people start to bid for his back. One of the people offers him 10 million French francs if the man was willing to let his back be replaced by some surgeons, another man wants the old man to walk around with his back naked on one of his beaches. The old man decided to go for the beach thing, but once he realises what’s about to happen he found out the beach doesn’t exsist and they killed the man to sell his back.. My storyline is going to be from the artist’s point of view:
A young Russian soldier is walking along the streets off to his shabby home which he shares with 2 people. One other soldier and his girl. Today has definately been the most miserable day of the soldier’s life, he had to do a lot of hard working and in the end he has lost all his money on gambling.
When he enters the shabby place he finds the girl reading some newspapers without paying any interest to the content. The soldier drops down his stuff and walks on to his little art-lab where he starts to paint what happened to him today. After a couple of minutes the other “house”-owner enters the room and suddendly the atmosphere changed, he was all happy and walked straight on to his girl. “You are not going to believe what happened to me today!” he said. “Well I’m sure it has been a better day than mine” was the Russian’s reply. “Even the queen had a worse day than me today! I had 6 people who wanted to be tatooed and they all had money to pay me! Here take a bottle of this delicious wine to celebrate this day!”. The Russian soldier moved towards the bottle and decided to go drunk all the way even if it was just to forget what happened today.
Once the 3 bottles were finished the happy tatoo’er went out to buy another 3 bottles which are also finished in a matter of minutes. “I think it’s time for me to go upstairs and have some sleep the girl said”. “No”, the man said, “I got a great idea to finish this evening! I am going to have you tatooed on my back!” “Who’s supposed to do that?” was the girls’ reply. “Our dear Russian brother of course! He’s a great artist, I will teach him how to tatoo in 2 minutes and the painting will be done.”. The Russian man starts to laugh at once “What a ridiculous idea, I have no clue how to tattoo and I’m drunk like never, I think we’d better do this some other day!” “No no no! It has to happen today, it has to happen right now! The war can start any moment now, we’d better get it done today!” “Okay okay, I will tatoo your back, but if anything goes wrong don’t blame me”. “You got a deal mate, get started with it quickly now!”
The painting turned out to be really great, as you looked at it it seemed as if the girl was smiling to you and when the wearer moved up his shoulders there seemed to be a wind blowing up some of the girls’ hairs. Really a masterpiece of tatooing. But unfortunately the man was right, the war would commence within a few days from then. The Russian artist however managed to stay away from it because he kept selling pieces of art to people who were trying to get him into the war. And once the war ends the boy was so experienced at painting that he got famous all over the world with his paintings. He had presentations from Paris to Boston and even a couple of presentations in his home city, Dubria (just north of Moskou).
After some years he got a phonecall from Paris because something strange happened there. “An old and poor man has shown his back during one of our presentations, on it was a large tatoo of a girl which he called his wife. The tatoo was signed by you, we are wondering wheter this is one of your works.” It took a couple of seconds before the artist understood what exactly was going on here and after a long silence he answered: “Protect that man, I need to speak him!” “So it is one of your works? I have to excuse us for what happened, the man got killed and his back is now presented in the main hall of our presentation. You can come over here to take a look at it if you wish.” “You got to be kidding! You really killed that man?!” “Uhm yes, as a matter of fact he refused to sell his back..” The Russian guy dropped the phone and hurried to Paris at once.
As he got there he decided to pay a visit to the place where his old friend was burried, then he did something nobody could expect, he started to cut off his own back right in front of the grave, the artist died there due to a loss of blood. And when the people who gathered around this man looked at the back of the artist they saw the most unusual thing in their life: The back contained a tatooed picture of the artist’s wife tatooed by his old mate. But over the picture it said in red marks: “If we go, we go together”
With this point of view we see what really happened, in the original story is told that the man goes to a gallery where he suddenly dissapears after some rich men “buy” him. But apparently something way more horrific happened: he got killed and his back is revealed as being a piece of art!
For the C part I chose for assignment 20, because while I am doing this assignment I am listening music (of course) and when I was looking for the right assignment to pick for the C part ‘Seven seconds’ of Youssou Ndour and Neneh Cherry started. I think that’s a pretty good song and it fitted exactly to the theme / character of 1 of the stories in the book I read. It fits to the story The wish which is about a little boy who got a fantasy about a carpet laying on the floor. It has 3 different colours: red black and yellow. In his imagination the black squared contained snakes, the red ones will cause him to die immediately and the yellow ones are safe. He has to get to the other side of the room in order to get his birthday puppy so he has to move from the one yellow spot to the other. Then it comes to a moment where he gets into trouble, he doesn’t know how to move on so he tries to move back. But that also didn’t work, he decided to wait there
It's not a second
7 seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I'll be waiting
But after some time he found out that that’s not going to work, he can’t wait on the yellow spot because he won’t get his puppy then..
Nothing can move us, we should be moving
So he decides to go for it anyways. In the end his mother starts searching for him and his special world is broken. Seven Seconds is about a perfect world, this could be reality if nobody would waste the ‘fun’ which always happens.
This final in depth-assignment is number 28, when did the book start to interest you. It was a little hard to pick the good M-C assignment as I already done 20/21 in the previous part and for assignment 5 you have to read a filmed book, the other assignments are rather hard because I have mutiple themes (each story has another theme). So 28 is going to be the assignment. The first story (taste) started a little weird:
‘There was six of us to dinner that night at Mike Schfield’s house in London: Mike and his wife and daughther, my wife and I and a man called Richard Pratt.’
Meaning you start the story with 6 different people which you know nothing about, this makes it a little confusing to get started. Due to that the first page was entirely uninteresting. In fact the story started to run just after the 13th page (started at 9) where Mike and Richard start their bet-thing, its impossible to actually quote this as it is a development of a long conversation which includes this bet, you can’t say: here starts the bet itself... Then the actual story is about to get started.
Most of the stories have a start like this, a little confusing and hard to understand, but after a couple of pages you are entirely in the story. Luckily the run-up got smaller and smaller and maybe because of the constant style Roald uses you can actually enter the final few stories at once!
Another example of a though storystart: (in addition to the statement I made that the stories often start weird, the point where it gets interesting is explained after this example)
“On the morning of the third day the sea calmed. Even the most delicate passengers –those who had not been seen around the ship since sailing time – emerged from their cabins and crept on the sun deck”
This was the story called Dip in the pool which is about a man on a cruise ship where they have a daily lottery about how far they are going to get. They bet for instance that next day they will pass 100 miles. The participators say more or less and the winners get paid. The man on the ship has participated in one of these lotteries for the first time because the weather was really bad and he ‘knew’ things wouldn’t get better, so he was ‘sure’ of winning. But as you can expect the weather changed and he was about to lose his bet, therefore he decided to slow down the ship in any way. So he went to the deck closest to the railing of the ship. There was just 1 old woman standing there, he jumped over the railing into the water so the woman started to scream. The next thing which happened was that the old woman’s daughther came on the deck “ah there you are, we told you not to walk around on your own!” the woman said that there has been a man jumping off the ship, but her daughter doesn’t believe her so they leave the deck together…
The real joy in the book came in the story called Lamb to the slaughter which was about a detective who got killed by his wife (he told he was seeing someone else) due to a lambleg-hit, the police came over to the house to search for evidence but they didnt manage to find a thing because the detective’s wife knew exactly how to hide things. Then she offered them to have some dinner with her, she served the lambleg; these are the last few lines of the story (policemen conversating during their meal):
‘ “That’s hell of a big club the guy must’ve used to hit poor Patrick (the detective)” one of them was saying. “The doc says his skull was smashed all to pieces just like from a sledge-hammer.”
“That’s why it ought to be easy to find’
“Exactly what I say”
“Whoever done it, they’re not going to be carrying a thing like that around with them longer than they need”
One of them belched
“Personally, I think it’s right here on the premises”
“Probably right under our very noses. What you think Jack?”
And in the other room, Mary Maloney (the murderer) began to giggle.’
This was quite a good story and now I actually realised it was a story-book, I thought after the first story that things would continue all over the book (would have been boring) so I was surprised when the next story started entirely different from the first one! After this story a lot of good ones followed..
A little hard to explain this title, maybe he refers to the fact that all those different people contain 1 strong emotion or character which we see back in real-life. For instance you got the Bluffer in Taste, the cheater in Dip in the pool, the curiosity and filiality in The wish. And so on, I suppose he means that altogether the characters form someone like you
This book doesn’t have 1 genre unless you count stories as a general genre, the stories all seem to play in the time that the book was written as there are small clues back to the war which has been passed… But as the stories all contain some kind of small joke I would call the general genre comedy.
If I am right with the title-explanation then the theme would be that a person has more than 1 character trait. And that can be connected to prejudice or things like don’t judge too quick about who someone is. And in the seperated stories there sometimes are some ‘wise lessons’ like don’t bet things you don’t own Man from the south and don’t judge too quick Galloping Foxely.
Here comes a list with the main characters of each story:
The owner of the house where the bet is being held, he is the one who loses the bet
Lamb to the Slaughter:
The woman who killed her husband
Man of the south:
The boy of the bet
My lady love, my dove:
The girl who gets the idea to find out about the people’s sex-life
Dip in the pool:
The tatooed man
The little boy
The sound machine:
The weird scientist
Again a hard one on a story-collection, but I would go for identification, can you identify yourself with the characters? And do you accept the moves he makes? Because there are a lot of different main characters you have to identify yourself on each story again. Then you find out wheter you accept the things the main character does and in the end at the joke-part you get either trapped because you would run into the same problem as the character or you get statisfied because you didn’t accept the moves from the begin on. Then you get a “game” like book which is about to find out who is ‘someone like you’. That would be the theme then, the subject is different each time which is an advantage with this theme because Roald can show a different picture each story.
The stories are all about 1 single event like the pool in Dip in the pool or the firelightningchallenge in Man from the South and so on. All of the themes have the same inpact, they are superficial if you are used to the big literature (they are not about ethic problems or hard emotions) but they always reveal the storyline so they are essential. And weird enough the story of The wish was most interesting, it is about a silly thing in a child’s fantasy. For some reason it wakes up some kind of child in you, you start to follow the steps the little boy takes and you can imagine what goes through his head. And when it becomes exciting you get broken off from his fantasyworld and you are transfered back into the grownup world. You then realise that the real world can be a lot less interesting than a ‘real fantasy’.
Each main character has just 1 single character trait. Therefore you can’t simply quote one line where the character is described, the character develops through the story from unkown to 1 certain character trait. But I managed to find 2 characters which can be revealed by a quote:
The wish (braveness)
‘Yes, he thought, I will pick it off, even if it isn’t ready, even if the middle of it sticks, even if it hurts like anything’
The character dares to do things which are risky and which could hurt, but he is not impressed by the risk, he goes for the challenge and picks it off.
Galloping Foxely (cowardice)
‘I didn’t feel altogether comfortable in his presence. It was something like being inside the cage with a tame tiger.
What nonsense is this? I asked myself. Don’t be so stupid. My heavens, if you wanted you could go ahead and tell him exactly what you thought of him and he couldn’t touch you,
Hey – That was an idea!’
In this part you see how scared the old man still is of the guy who once used to be his leader, he doesn’t dare to go for it and take the challenge if there’s any risk. In the end he has done it anyways, but that’s just because he discovered in this passage that the opponent was unarmed..
I already kinda explained this, the stories start a little complicated and then things run on quite smooth. All stories are perfectly in chronological order without confusing flashbacks or something, exept for the story Skin which is in itself a complete flashback.
I had no problems with working on the assignments, I did run in the problem of a story-collection of course but as I picked the book in quite a rush (see motivation) this was the disadvantage I had to take. The assignments on itself were quite good and nice to do as they are a little more challenging than the boring assignments for dutch book reports.
As a matter of fact I think they helped me to understand the content of the book, after I read it I didn’t think about the title and the stuff related to that so it has helped me to understand the book in detail. But on the general themes and subjects it was not too hard to understand the book.