Roald Dahl's heartbreaking essay about losing his daughter Olivia to measles in 1962 has resurfaced following the outbreak of the disease in the US.
Writing in 1986, 24 years after his seven-year-old daughter died, he recounted the hours before she passed away.
"Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it," he wrote.
"Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything. 'Are you feeling all right?' I asked her. 'I feel all sleepy,' she said. In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead."
Dahl added: "Incidentally, I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the first was James and the Giant Peach. That was when she was still alive. The second was The BFG, dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles. You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children."
In the letter, Dahl described it as "almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised".
His wife Patricia Neal, who was Olivia's mother, said that Dahl was so devastated by Olivia's death that he never spoke about it.
In a recently discovered private notebook kept by Dahl, he wrote about the moment he was told Olivia had died.
"Got to hospital. Walked in. Two doctors advanced on me from waiting room. How is she? I'm afraid it's too late. I went into her room. Sheet was over her. Doctor said to nurse go out. Leave him alone. I kissed her. She was warm. I went out. 'She is warm.' I said to doctors in hall, 'why is she so warm?' 'Of course,' he said. I left."
The contents of the notebook are published in Dahl biography Storyteller.
Dr Ava Easton, Chief Executive of The Encephalitis Society, says that measles encephalitis is still a deadly disease in modern Britain.
"Roald Dahl wrote his letter 30 years ago but still today in the UK alone, 6000 people are diagnosed with encephalitis each year, that's 16 people every day," she tells The Independent. "This, it seems is also considered an underestimate as encephalitis is very difficult to diagnose and like in the case of Roald Dahl's daughter, is sadly often missed.
"On the 22nd of February it is World Encephalitis Day, where we are looking to increase awareness of encephalitis and encourage doctors and the general public to learn more about the condition."Reuse content
In pictures: Roald Dahl's most enduring characters
How Does Charlie and Chocolate Factory Speak to the Phrase “Good Things Come to Those who Wait”? What about “Good Things Come in Small Packages”?
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a magical world created for children. It is a world of sweets, chocolates, candies, miracles, little creatures and magical inventions. This story takes you from reality to the incredible fairy tale. But this fairy tale isn’t so simple. At first sight it’s just a story about a lucky poor boy and his fascinating chocolate factory tour. But why did Charlie Bucket become this lucky one?
What distinguished him from other children? This tale answers these questions. It shows us how bad behaviour and immorality can lead you to a bad ending. It shows us that it is very important to respect elders, listen to them and not to break rules. It teaches us how to be good, kind, moral, courteous and generous. Because eventually all the evil will be punished and all the goodness will be rewarded. And it’s not just the moral of all the tales, but it’s the law of life.
Our magical travel in this charming chocolate world begins with the acquaintance with Charlie and his family. Charlie was a little kind-hearted boy who was born in a poor family. He lived with his parents and four bedridden grandparents. He always “went into the room of his four grandparents to listen to their stories and then afterwards to say good night” (Dahl, p.19). The biggest happiness for him was a chocolate bar which he got once a year for his birthday. But nevertheless he wasn’t greedy and was ready to share his little piece of happiness with others. “Here, Mother, have a bit. We’ll share it. I want everybody to taste it” (Dahl, p. 45). The cold and hunger were common things for him. Grandpa George said that “He deserves better than this” (Dahl, p.58). And the world of this little boy changed because miracles happen to those who believe in them and deserve them. He was so anxious to get a golden ticket that would allow him to visit Willy Wonka’s factory, but his chances, comparing with other rich children, were so small. Nevertheless, it was a lucky chance, when he found some money on the sidewalk and bought two chocolate bars. There was a golden ticket in one of them. Thanks to it he visited Willy Wonka’s factory and in the end of the chocolate factory tour he won the factory itself. It was not just a ticket to the chocolate factory, but it was a ticket to his new life which he was awarded because of his good nature and heart.
Besides Charlie, this story acquaints us with other children who differed from him. They were ill-bred, selfish and greedy. Because of their bad nature and behaviour they were ridiculed and they had a bad ending (Tumer, 2009). Augustus Gloop was so greedy that he started to drink chocolate from the chocolate river and fell into it. He had to be boiled to make sure that “all the greed and the gall will be boiled away for one and all” (Dahl, p.105). Violet Beauregard used to chew a gum all the time. When she went in the Inventing Room, she took an experimental gum, despite forbiddance from the elders, and blew up into a blueberry. Veruca Salt was a very spoilt child and she used to get everything from her parents. She wanted to have a trained squirrel. When she was refused, she entered into the Nut Room and was attacked by squirrels. She was thrown into the rubbish chute. Mike Teavee was so obsessed with television that he used a television teleport and shrank himself because of it. All these children were punished because of their bad behaviour.
You see that Charlie rather differs from other children in this story who are disobedient, greedy and aggressive towards the parents and others. That’s why they are depicted as immature and are punished to correct their behaviour (Syakira Meor Hissan, 32). Despite their money, parents and possibilities, they lacked the main principles of humanity. They lacked kindness and kindheartedness. The fate of Charlie is absolutely opposite. He was destined to be a lucky one. When others tried to use all their money and possibilities to get these golden tickets, he got it absolutely unexpectedly and without a great tug. He got not only the golden ticket, but the whole chocolate factory itself. Of course he wasn’t rewarded by chance. It’s the case when a kind heart and good intentions and deeds do marvels. He attracted all these miracles that happened to him because of his good nature. It’s like the law of universe. It’s the law of the boomerang. All our words and deeds return to us. Because of it Charlie managed to change not only his own life, but the life of his family. He saved them from hunger, coldness and poverty. That’s why the destiny of Charlie is not the same as the destiny of other children portrayed in this tale. And this is a lesson that we should take from this story.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a magical fairy tale that teaches us to be human beings. It shows us how we create our fate through our deeds and intentions. We shouldn’t forget that everything we do or say returns to us in some way. Miracles happen only with those who deserve them by their deeds, thoughts and behaviour. Only good nature and kind heart are those things that can change our life and attract some marvels to it. But if you are greedy, aggressive and disobedient you must not just forget about some miracles in your life, but you will be also punished because of your bad behaviour. We shouldn’t forget about the principle of the boomerang that exists not only in fairy tales, but in real life too. It’s one of the main principles that exists in our universe. Let’s try to follow Charlie in his deeds, and not the other ill-bred children who met a troubled end in the tale. We should take a lesson from this fairy tale and try to make our lives and behavior better.
Dahl, R. (1964). Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Great Britain: Puffin Books.
Syakira Meor Hissan, Wan (2012, July). “An Analysis of the Children’s Characters in Roald Dahl’s Novel: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Retrieved from: Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 83-92.
Tumer, I. (2009). “Analysing Roald Dahl’s Works for Children as a Means of Social Criticism.” Retrieved from http://tedprints.tedankara.k12.tr/27/1/2009-Irem%20Tumer.pdf
The author of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book review declares that good things come not to those who wait but to those who deserve. The protagonist of the novel, poor boy Charlie, has a kind heart and a generous soul. He often suffers from cold or hunger but never forgets about his family. The other kids who received their golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory were greedy, impatient, and spoiled. Although a fantastic miracle happened in their lives, they were not grateful for it and fate punished them for their ingratitude: what goes around comes around.
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