Gen X & Gen Z Writers Share Their Differing Stances On Roald Dahl's Books Getting Changed For 'Sensitivity' Purposes

Is it time for a change?

Matilda, Roald Dahl books, Roald Dahl Chrisdorney / urbanbuzz / Olga Popova / Shutterstock & Wikimedia Commons

Back in February, several news outlets, including CNN, reported that the works of the late Roald Dahl, author of such popular children’s books as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Matilda,” and “The Witches,” were slated to receive a makeover via publisher Puffin Book.

The publisher set out to change various pieces of content from the original writing to remove certain terminology and notions considered problematic in our current cultural climate and suffice to say, people were not pleased.


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Amid concerns about censorship, fears that political correctness had gone mad and debates about separating the art from the artist, the suggested changes seemed to allude to a generational gap between people whose nostalgia drove them to defend Dahl’s work and others who welcomed a new version of the classics that better reflected changing times.


So, how do different generations see the changes to Dahl’s work?

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Here are two perspectives from a member of Generation X and Generation Z:

From A Gen X perspective.

By Katy Kostakis

A New York Post article breaks down the changes in Dahl’s books, found by The Telegraph, which includes the removal of the words “crazy” and “ugly”; replacing the word “woman” with “female,” as well as the description of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character Augustus Gloop. Known for his very hearty appetite, the character was no longer referred to as “enormously fat” but “enormous.”


Fat is a problematic word? As a plus-sized person, am I happy that this word was removed? Not particularly.

Fat acceptance is still lagging in our society, and many fat-positive movements are reclaiming the word to use as a positive. 

For any lover of literature, whenever such changes come into play, there can be an almost visceral reaction to the very inkling of censorship. 

Throughout our education as well as from reading as a hobby, we are introduced to works that we may disagree with or downright despise.

Personally, I was not a fan of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel “Lolita,” but it gets us thinking and talking, which is the point. 

Knowing some of Dahl’s more damaging personal opinions now, as an adult, certainly makes me question whether I can admire his work any longer.


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But guess what? Our world was not very progressive at certain times.

While we cannot erase or sanitize works of the past, we can continue to educate, and make a conscious effort to do (and be) better.  

After all of the backlash concerning Puffin’s actions, the publisher issued another statement that there would be two versions, with the copies containing the original content to be released as part of “The Roald Dahl Classic Collection”, according to

If there are parents or children that elect to read either version or even choose to avoid Dahl’s works altogether, I can only hope that it will continue to foster a discussion as to the ever-growing, ever-changing world around us. 


We cannot continue to progress as a society if we merely attempt to erase what was. We owe it to ourselves and others to continue to talk about it all; to not only learn from our past, but to shape our future. 

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From a Gen Z perspective:

By Hawthorn Martin

As someone who is a member of Gen Z, and who grew up reading Roald Dahl’s books, I was surprised to learn about this movement of editing his works and re-releasing them. 

Having read Dahl as a much younger person, I hadn’t been aware of the racist and colonialist backstory of the Oompa Loompas or the outdated depictions of women, or other harmful tropes present in his books.




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I was also unaware that Dahl himself was a self-proclaimed “antisemite”, and publicly claimed that Nazi Germany targeted the Jewish population for “a reason.”

“Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason,” Dahl wrote in 1983.


Knowing now that his discrimination was an integral part of his worldview is deeply unsettling and certainly paints the books in a different light.

But the specific changes are not revisions of these facts. Some are calling it censorship, and others are calling it rewriting, but I feel that both of those terms suggest a much larger scale than what is actually happening.

Most of the alterations being made to the stories are relatively small, and many of them do little to change Dahl’s harmful tropes.

I ask how making Augustus Gloop “enormous” rather than “fat” possibly fixes underlying issues in the text. Just because a few controversial words have been altered, doesn’t mean he isn’t written as grotesque or deserving of his tragic fate just because he is a large kid.


In the revised text, Augustus Gloop will remain a fatphobic caricature who is punished for his inability to stop eating.

In my personal opinion, these edits seem to serve the purpose of looking better for a “politically correct” printing press, rather than actually protecting any children who might read them from internalizing negative biases. I find it difficult to see how this makes an important change.

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I do, however, think that the language we read is important.

It can be very difficult to enjoy a historical book like Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” for example, because of the offensive language used throughout it.


Even if the book was meant to be a critique of the racism of the times, it still can be damaging to have to read such words over and over.

No child should be forced to repeatedly read books where the only way they can see themselves represented is through violent language and stereotypes. I understand wanting to change that.

However, I think this might be an opportunity for learning, rather than censorship. 

In my opinion, it would be better for a text to come with annotations or notes that explain the harmful rhetoric of the language or tropes used, rather than erasing them entirely.

Let the kids understand the context for themselves!

It is important for kids to be able to think critically about what they read, rather than dividing the language they come across as “good” or “unreadable” without any further explanation.


On top of that, for parents who would be concerned about their children reading even an annotated version such as that, I would suggest they find other stories for their children to engage with. There are so many other books and films that do a better job of representing minorities than Dahl’s work ever has.

Rather than restricting the history of one story, sometimes it is better to move on to another one with just as much rich storytelling and value as the one left behind.

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Katy Kostakis is a Boston-based freelance journalist and writer and specializing in lifestyle, arts & entertainment, health & wellness, beauty, food & dining, and culture.


Hawthorn Martin is a news and entertainment writer living in Texas. They focus on social justice, pop culture, and human interest stories.