With Sensitivity Readers Adjusting Language in Roald Dahl’s Books, They’re Now Unbearable to Read

solarisgirl, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

While I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth, I was blessed to have grown up in a house filled with books. As a kid, I loved books full of adventure, hilarity, and a little bit of horror. 

One of my favorite authors growing up was the wildly popular Roald Dahl. While I wasn’t a big Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fan, I did enjoy The BFG, James and the Giant Peach, and my favorite…The Witches.

The classics I grew up on and loved are now being updated to make them more ‘inclusive,’ which is just a fancy way of saying the late author is being censored to appease the woke culture mob. So let’s look at how Mr. Dahl’s words are being watered down so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of our society.

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Who are These People?

The publishing company Puffin announced it would release new editions of Roald Dahl classics without “problematic phrasing and terminology.” The public notice explained that ‘sensitivity readers’ had “reviewed” the language and altered some of it to “ensure that it can continue to be enjoyed by all today.”

I had never even heard of ‘sensitivity reader’ until this story hit the wires, and I’m still in shock that this is a paying job. So I naturally became curious and had to look into what this job entails; after all, I’m always open to new experiences and opportunities.

A sensitivity reader is someone a publisher hires to read through a book with characteristics outside the authors. For example, I’m a white heterosexual female, so if I were to write a book, a publisher might hire a black homosexual nonbinary sensitivity reader to make sure I don’t use harmful or inaccurate stereotypes in my writing.

This article alone has caused me to think twice about writing a book to begin with. Zoe Dubno wrote in The Spectator that these people are the new “moral gatekeepers” of fiction.

To become a sensitivity reader, you need a resume and credentials like any job.

Zubno writes, “To become a sensitivity reader you have to advertise your suffering — create and market a CV of otherness, of emotional pain, trauma, credentialising your oppression to enter a victim-for-hire system.”

You might as well make some money while wallowing in your victimhood. So what did the Puffin sensitivity readers deem inappropriate in Dahl’s books?

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Does This Book Make me Look Fat?

The change garnering the most headlines is removing the word ‘fat’ from the beloved books, most notably the description of Augustus Goop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Instead, Augustus is just “enormous,” which detracts from the character’s point. 

The rotund Augustus symbolizes gluttony and greed; one can be enormous without being gluttonous and fat with greed. Mrs. Twit from The Twits is now just “beastly” and no longer “ugly and beastly.” 

Why the term ‘ugly’ is offensive, I don’t know; the truth is some people are just ugly. They may be physically unattractive or ugly on the inside, but ugliness is just a reality in our world.

The ‘sensitivity readers’ adjusted a crucial line in The Twits that initially read, “You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double-chin and stick out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams.” The line reads almost the same, except they removed the double chin for some bizarre reason.

As someone who sports a double chin, I take offense. Are they implying that having a double chin is so egregiously disgusting that no good thoughts will make my face look like sunbeams?

What message does this send to children?

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Just Bad Writing

My favorite Roald Dahl book was The Witches. I loved and read it so much that the book curled out and had numerous stains from spilled drinks and dog-eared pages – all signs of a well-loved book.

These witches spend their days hunting down children. As the original work explained, their dedication to their dastardly deeds knows no bounds, “Even if she is working as a cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman.” The line now reads, “Even if she is working as a top scientist or running a business.”

There are so many issues with this terrible change I’m wondering if I have enough word count allotted to cover them all. First, there is nothing wrong with being a cashier; many of us started our young adult life as cashiers, and plenty of men and women make honest good livings as cashiers. 

Second, in their attempt to show that women these days can be anything they want to be because of the progression of time, they show just how elitist this group of ‘sensitivity readers’ are, top scientists? What does that even mean?

Is there such a thing as a bottom-rung scientist? Plus, why are we concerned about marginalizing witches?

In George’s Marvelous Medicine, in describing the potion’s effects, the original text was, “Look at you! You’re standing up all on your own and you’re not even using a stick!” Now the text reads, “Look at you! You’re full of beans!”

What the hell does that mean? If I wrote that poorly I would no longer be writing articles for you to read. 

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The Real Point

Is all of this rewriting an effort to make Roald Dahl more accessible to today’s kids? Obviously not. Children don’t need the new disclaimer in The Witches that states, “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.”

To assume they do is to assume children are dumber than they are and care about the same nonsensical things that their far dumber and dimmer adult counterparts care about. This is about appeasing a very powerful cabal of special interest groups and investors who either actively are pushing a woke ideology or are passively supporting the same.

In 2021, Netflix acquired the rights to the Roald Dahl books allowing them to create series and movies from these classic books. Interesting timing that now there are some rewrites in the works, an apparent move to enable Netflix to inject as much woke nonsense into their series and movies as possible.

The great Ray Bradbury commented on edits after his Fahrenheit 451 was ironically changed to appease so-called feminists. “There is more than one way to burn a book,” Bradbury said, “and the world is full of people running around with lit matches.”

Unfortunately, these changes aren’t going to make these classics more palatable.

The changes will force Roald Dahl’s work to disappear into obscurity because, besides the obvious ideological smear in these edits, the books will be boring. And kids don’t like to read boring books. 

But perhaps that was the goal as well, talk about cancel culture.

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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