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Themes

When you really think about it, <em>The Witches</em> is a pretty stinkin' violent book. Our narrator is violently grabbed and held down while poisoned with Mouse-Maker. We see a witch get blown into smoke right in front of our eyes (or at least our narrators' eyes). Plus, the witches talk about countless violent ways in which they like to kill children. Here's the thing, though: it still seems to be lighthearted. This is the magic of Roald Dahl. How does he do it? See the sections on "Tone" and "Writing Style" for our thoughts. Unlike in other books, violence in <em>The Witches</em> doesn't make you cringe. Sometimes it even makes you chuckle because of how absurd it is. If you want to really have the point driven home, watch the movie version of the book, and you'll see how much more... violent... the violence is, because it's missing Dahl's lighthearted storytelling techniques.

Questions About Violence

  1. What are some ways that Roald Dahl describes violence that makes it more bearable?
  2. Why do you think there is so much violence in this book? What purpose does it serve? What effect does it have? Is it appropriate for children?
  3. When you first sat down (or stood up – it's good for you!) to read this book, did you expect so much violence? Why or why not?
  4. Did you ever find any of the violent bits of the book funny? What made them funny? Can you imagine a different author writing the same scene but in a scary or gross way?
  5. Have you read any Greek myths /mythology/? Those are often taught to children. How does the violence in Greek myths compare to the violence in The Witches?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Violence is violence is violence. Roald Dahl shouldn't have treated it so lightly.

The witches talk a bigger game than they play. They're not as violent in their actions as they are in their words.

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