How we cite our quotes:
One child a week is fifty-two a year.
Squish them and squiggle them and make them disappear. (1.11-12)
This is the witches' motto. It's violent, yes, but not very catchy. Can you come up with something better?
A witch, you must understand, does not knock children on the head or stick knives into them or shoot at them with a pistol. People who do those things get caught by the police. (1.15)
Roald Dahl has a way of slipping in really violent images even when they're not necessary. Here, when he's talking about things that witches don't do, he manages to include some of the most violent images in the book. Because they're not happening, though, it seems acceptable to discuss them. If the witches were actually sticking knives into children, we would probably be shocked when we read it.
"I've known English witches," she went on, who have turned children into pheasants and then sneaked the pheasants up into the woods the very day before the pheasant-shooting season opened."
"Owch," I said. "So they get shot?"
"Of course they get shot," she said. "And then they get plucked and roasted and eaten for supper." (4.23-25)
The words "of course" are striking here. In the world of The Witches, it's not surprising for children to get turned into pheasants and then get shot. If that weren't enough, they get eaten for dinner, too. So, it seems like Roald Dahl isn't using violence for the shock factor – instead, he's almost trying to make it seem normal. Is this okay in a book written for children? What do you think?