Study Guide

The Witches Youth

By Roald Dahl

Youth

[Y]ou might just possibly manage to escape from being squelched before you are very much older. (1.29)

That "you" is you. Yep, you. Because we're reading this while we're still pretty young, we are in danger of being squelched by a witch. The fact that we have another young person looking out for us, though, leads to a sense of camaraderie – we feel like we're in good company.

Although I was very young, I was not prepared to believe everything my grandmother told me. (2.51)

Young, but not gullible. That's something that we struggle with a lot as kids. Just because we're young, it doesn't mean we're stupid. Our narrator has a healthy dose of cynicism, meaning he doesn't believe everything he hears – but he still has enough wonder to enjoy the excitement of the stories.

"Would you like a puff of my cigar?" she said.

"I'm only seven, Grandmamma."

"I don't care what age you are," she said. "You'll never catch a cold if you smoke cigars." (2.55-56)

Although we usually like Grandmamma's rules (like not to bathe too often), Shmoop is with the narrator here. It sounds like he was listening when he was told to Just Say No – even to Grandma.

"No," she said. "I doubt that. One child is as good as any other to those creatures." (4.93)

To the witches, all children are the same. Even just by looking at the difference between our narrator and Bruno Jenkins, though, we know that's not actually the case.

She had a key to my door and she kept bursting in at all hours, trying to catch me with the mice out of the cage. (5.53)

Adults really can be party poopers, can't they?

At that point, I think I fainted. The whole thing was altogether too much for a small boy to cope with. (6.19)

Our narrator is very aware that he's still a "small boy." Do you think this is a good awareness for a young person, or does it make him less likely to enjoy his childhood? What other parts of the book make you answer that way?

<em>What's so wonderful about being a little boy anyway? Why is that necessarily any better than being a mouse? </em>[…] <em>Little boys have to go to school. Mice don't. Mice don't have to pass exams.</em> (13.6)

What <em>is</em> so wonderful about being a little boy? Our narrator seems pretty content as a mouse, but in all the excitement, he seems to have forgotten that being a boy wasn't all that bad either. What do you think he's forgetting?

The fact that a tiny little creature like me had caused such a commotion among a bunch of grown-up men gave me a happy feeling. (18.44)

The narrator is talking here about a mouse versus a bunch of humans. Still, it also reflects the commotion that a kid, like him, is able to cause among the adults in the hotel. He's a "tiny little creature" in mouse form, but, even in his previous form, he was still pretty little compared to everyone around him.

"No more school!" said Bruno, grinning a broad and asinine mouse-grin. "No more homework! I shall live in the kitchen cupboard and feast on raisins and honey!" (19.19)

Ah, the things little boys worry about. Down with school and homework! If it had been an adult who was turned into a mouse, how might this statement have been different?

Only the children in the room were really enjoying it. They all seemed to know instinctively that something good was going on right there in front of them, and they were clapping and cheering and laughing like mad. (20.16)

Where did all these children come from? Why did Roald Dahl decide to insert this thought at the very end of the book when there had barely been any children throughout the rest of the story?