Spoiler Alert: “The Way up to Heaven” by Roald Dahl

Julie Harris’ performance in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The Way up to Heaven” was very convincing and realistic. Her facial expressions and tone perfectly captured Mrs. Foster’s dilemma. All the actors and actresses did a great job with capturing the feel of the story. The actor who played Mr. Foster did a fantastic job with his role, for he was really annoying and self-absorbed and cruel, which was good for the role he was playing. Both the story and the video were entertaining. The story was fun to read, and very suspenseful. I personally preferred the film though, since the ending to the story was quite confusing. I found it difficult to interpret what happened to Mr. Foster through the writing. All the questions I had about the story were answered in the film though. It was helpful to be able to see what their house looked like and what time they were living in. To be able to see Mrs. Foster’s reaction to the delays and antics of Mr. Foster made the experience enjoyable and interesting, and these developed the story. When I heard Mr. Foster calling out names from within the house, I immediately understood what was going on and how Mrs. Foster had killed him. It all made sense in the film, whereas some key details in the writing were very difficult to find. In fact, in the film, the director implanted a scene that I thought was really helpful to understanding the dynamics at play.

The film version shows a clip of the butler and the driver having a conversation about Mr. and Mrs. Foster. This did not appear in the story. The driver comments on how severe Mrs. Foster’s fear is and how he has noticed that Mr. Foster likes to purposefully make her late to scare her. The butler disagrees, and, despite that he must recognize Mrs. Foster’s paranoia of being late, pretends that he does not know Mr. Foster makes her late to torture her. He semi-mockingly suggests that if the driver thinks Mr. Foster would do something like that, that he should find another job. When I saw this I realized that neither Mrs. Foster nor the driver were uptight or confused, and in clashing against the chaos, they were the only sane ones. Seeing Mr. Foster at the end was really morbid. The film unlocked some elements of the story adding to the overall enjoyment: but please read the story first! 


A practical joke is a trick played on someone to make them look foolish and to amuse others. This idea is explored by Guy de Maupassant in his stories, “A Normandy Joke” and “An Uncomfortable Bed.” In “A Normandy Joke,” it starts off with a wedding procession, the bridegroom being a wealthy sportsman by the name of Jean Patu and the bride who was courted by many other fellows but of course, picked “the richest farmer in the neighborhood.” During the big wedding dinner, four young fellows think of practical jokes for the newly married couple and find one so good that when one shared the idea out loud, “the whole table convulsed with laughter.” They suggested that people would poach on his land during the wedding, an idea that Jean did not like, so he challenged them. He would be proven wrong. He heard two shots as he was getting ready to get in bed, and raced out to hunt them down in a “tumultuous rage.” The next day, he would be found “two leagues from the farm, tied hand and foot, half dead with rage, his gun broken, and a placard on his chest with these words: ‘Who goes on the chase loses his place.’” It can be inferred that the four young fellows had planned this and likely fired the shots to get him all riled up, with their comments at the dinner table to get Jean more paranoid about poachers to set up the practical joke.

In “An Uncomfortable Bed,” a man whose age is described as an “old ferret” is staying with his friends for the hunting season in a chateau in Picardy. His friends are terribly fond of practical jokes and he is immediately suspicious when he steps into the “chateau,” for he is greeted by “princely reception” as they “embraced” and “cajoled” the old ferret. He also notes excessive mirth at the dinner table as if they were getting their appetizer-giggles out before the main course, and by the title, it is assumed to be an uncomfortable bed. Apparently, they needed a second appetizer as “during the entire evening, everyone laughed in an exaggerated fashion.” They even needed a third as they escorted the old ferret to his apartment and he “heard laughter and whispering in the corridor.” The old ferret inspected everything like a paranoid animal and found that “the bed was particularly suspicious-looking.” So he pulls the mattress onto the floor. Dessert is coming soon, do not worry. He is awakened by the fall of a heavy body. He “[receives] on [his] face, on [his] neck, and on [his] chest a burning liquid which made [him] utter a howl of pain. And a dreadful noise, as if a sideboard laden with plates and dishes [fell] down, [penetrates] [his] ears.” It turns out that as a consequence of his suspicion, he brought “the interlude [he] had been striving to avoid,” as a valet tripped over his bed and failed to catch himself. Dessert is the best course of a meal. 


Squanto: when miraculous journeys become history

by Aaron Hur


Squanto, at the young age of twelve would never have guessed what journey would later approach him. He lived in a tribe called the Patuxets, a friendly tribe in the 17th century. However, one day a mammoth piece of transportation came their way, approximately the size of a hundred canoes. Squanto, though, was not startled at this, because these were the men that came every few years, and they were just there to trade with them… so he thought. This is when things went from good to bad in about two minutes. So the tribe ran to the coastline to meet them, when the men seemed friendly at first, but then dragged the Patuxets to the ground, hauling ropes over them, and tying their wrists and ankles tightly. The men threw them beneath the ship’s deck, and laughed as they walked away, and locked the hatch, their only escape. Squanto had never seen this type of behavior and found himself questioning why they had done this to them. 

Many days later, the ship stopped in Malaga, Spain. This is where the Patuxets were being sold in front of a jeering crowd to become slaves. You might think the situation couldn’t get any worse, and, well…  you’d be right. God had a plan for Squanto. When it was time for Squanto to be sold, on the dock, a group of monks bought Squanto with a small bag of coins. It was a gift from God that Squanto had been bought by the monks, because the monks serve God, which is why they took him to their monastery, where he got fed, and a comfortable place to sleep. The monks taught Squanto their language, and their faith with God. But ultimately, Squanto wanted to go back home, so after five good years, he went to London, in hope to find a ship that would take him back to America. He went to the home of a London merchant named John Slanie. John promised Squanto a ship ride back to America, and to teach him their language. Again after five long years of suspenseful waiting, in 1618, Squanto boarded the ship that would take him to a large trading post, and eventually to another ship that would end him up in his home – America. When he got back to his tribe, he was deeply disappointed, because the whole place was completely deserted.  Huh, not a great home reunion.

 Confused, Squanto visited his neighboring tribe, where he found out that his tribe had died from an illness. He stayed with the neighboring tribe for a while, but the happiness of the families around him only made his sorrow deeper. This news was too much for Squanto to bear, so he sat in the forest, listening to the peaceful sound of the breeze, and the distant perching of birds, and the rustling of trees, and talked to God. Then a tribesman told him to go back to his tribe, because many families had settled there. When he went to the edge, he met English people, and they shared their sorrowful stories with each other. This is how they started their connection with each other, and bonded, because they both understood what it was like to go through tough times. When the fall hit, the English people, now known as the Pilgrims, set a time to thank God for his mercy, which would later become the national holiday Thanksgiving. They thanked God for bringing Squanto as their guide in a time of need, and being there for him in his trials, and hardships. Squanto was a memorable character in history, “who was God’s wonderful gift to America in the rosy dawn of its history.” 


Spoiler Alert for “William and Mary” by Roald Dahl. Do not read unless you have read the story.

“Mary” by Kate Baylay

The story “William and Mary” by Roald Dahl is an interesting tale of a man dying and undergoing a science experiment that flipped the science world on its head. The story starts with William’s wife Mary taking a letter from her solicitor from her late husband. Mary was never extremely fond of her husband. He was restricting her as he never allowed her to smoke, and she never liked the way he looked at her. She described his gaze as “ice blue, cold, small, and rather close together, with two deep vertical lines of disapproval dividing them” (Dahl, 3). Although she may have loved him earlier in his life when they were first married, it has become clear that their bond had been weakened. She scolded him in her mind, saying that he was always formal, and never lightened up. This clearly made her frustrated with him, although his job was to be formal as a professor. She opens the letter after some contemplation, and begins to read it. 

            The letter describes the confrontation between Dr. Landy, a man who seems a bit too excited talking to someone who’s on their deathbed and the recently deceased. However, this is made up for by what he proposes to William. Landy first describes a gruesome experiment involving the severed head of a dog. This experiment suggests that the brain can survive outside the body, past death, with only an artificial heart pumping oxygen and blood through it. Landy, inspired by this idea, invents a way to keep a person’s brain alive without the rest of its body. He selects William Pearl as his subject, and when William dies, his eye and his brain are separated from his body and kept alive. Of course, he couldn’t hear or talk, but he could think and watch once he regained consciousness. This was Landy’s goal, now achieved.

            After reading the letter, Mary makes a beeline to Landy, who had already finished the experiment and now has William’s brain out and conscious and his eye floating in a basin. It’s rather gruesome sounding, and I don’t want to think about it more than I half to in the name of science. Anyway, Mary meets this form of William, and is enchanted by how weak and helpless her once stern husband is. She compares him to a pet, something that she must take care of. She sees her husband in a new light, perhaps seeing him once again as the loving man she married. She asked Landy if she could take him home, to which she got a definite no. But she is adamant about her take on the situation, and insists on having him back home.

She starts to really care about her husband when she first arrives at the facility where William is. She insists on putting the headline in the Times because William preferred the Times. She also insisted on calling William him rather than it. Can a person still be called by pronouns denoting people in the state that he was in? That could be up for discussion. She also said firmly to Landy after telling her that he wasn’t looking so good: “I didn’t marry him for his looks, Doctor” (Dahl, 20). The text also states that she seemed sullen, weathered, and overall tired-looking. She was all chipped and drained away through years of being with a man that didn’t make her very happy. When she stares in his eye, she finds a feeling of kindness and calm that she never saw in him when he was fully living. She realizes that this is the William she had been missing all of her life. She states that “I believe that I could live very comfortably with this kind of a William. I could cope with this one.” She likes this William much better.

But she starts to get feelings of power, the feeling that she was finally above him, she could do whatever she wanted and he couldn’t stop her. He couldn’t stare at her and say that he disapproved of what she did. She even called him “the great disapprover”. In fact, although he said in the letter not to buy a new television set (which was likely something that he told her while he was fully alive), she bought it anyway and put it up on his desk. She was clearly feeling rather rebellious when she did so. She smokes right up in his, er, eye, which was something he very much disapproved of. Mary felt that she was now in control of her life and that no one could really stop her. She was going to live out the rest of her days the way she wanted. 

Overall, this was a fascinating story, filled with facts about the brain that we never knew we needed, tidbits and mini stories within the main plot, and different perspectives and views within the limited vision of one character. This had that classic Dahl feeling to it, the feeling that you were both against and rooting for the protagonist. In this case, we see that Mary had been slightly mistreated by her husband but turns almost disrespectful and rebellious to him when he died. It was a pretty gruesome tale, and was not meant to be read by the faint of heart, but was informative about speculative science, and sheds light on a subject that was likely not pondered by many. I can see members of a Christian society getting rather angry and worked up at this tale; after all, it does involve someone transcending death, claiming that there was no heaven nor hell, as well as other more atheistic subjects. It was a very interesting tale that I very much enjoyed reading, and I hope to continue to find other stories that interest me as much as this one did.


“The Swan” by Roald Dahl 

(Spoiler Alert)

Ernie and Raymond are best friends. They are

both described as large for their age, but their

physical similarities stop there. The author

describes them as, “But while Ernie was

heavy and loutish, Raymond was tall, slim,

and muscular.” They are both very violent

people, and often go around hurting people.

Ernie tends to be very impulsive, and if

someone says something that he does not

like, he will automatically think to hurt them.

Raymond is less impulsive, and more calm

than Ernie. He sometimes reins Ernie in when

he thinks he is going too far. For example, “He

saw the flush coming to Ernie’s cheeks, and

there was a dangerous little spark dancing in

his small black eyes. Luckily, at that very

moment, Raymond saved the situation. “Hey!

Lookit that bird swimmin’ in the reeds over

there!” he shouted, pointing. “Let’s ‘ave ‘im!”

Raymond distracts Ernie when he is

provoked, out of fear that Ernie will go too far.

Two aspects of Peter’s personality are revealed when

he is strapped to the train tracks and starts to

daydream about cloud shapes. These are detachment

and intuitive wisdom. He shows detachment when he

is able to take his mind off of the terrifying

circumstances. “And to keep his mind off the thing

that was going to happen soon, he played a game

that his father had taught him long ago on a hot

summer’s day when they were lying on their backs in

the grass above the cliffs at Beachy Head.” Peter

knows that he is very scared, so he tries to keep his

mind off of the situation. Peter shows intuitive wisdom

not only by knowing what to think about when he is

about to get run over by a train, but also not letting

Ernie and Reynold, his tormentors, get the

satisfaction of seeing him scared. “‘How’re you doin’,

ratface?’ one of them called out to him from the

bushes above. ‘What’s it like, waitin’ for the

execution?’ He decided not to answer.”

Near the end of the story, Dahl mentions that there

are two types of people. “Some people, when they

have taken too much and have been driven beyond

the point of endurance, simply crumple and give up.

There are others, though they are not many, who will

for some reason always be unconquerable.You meet

them in time of war and also in time of peace. They

have an indomitable spirit and nothing, neither pain

nor torture nor threat of death, will cause them to give

up.” Peter is the second type of person. He has put up

with hardship and torture by Ernie and Reynold in this

story, such as being tied to the railroad tracks, having

swan wings tied to his back , and being shot in the

leg, but he never gives in. At the end of the story,

when he is falling from the tree and nearly dies, he

turns into a swan, as the title of the story suggests.

He looked up and he saw a light shining over the

waters of the lake that was of such brilliance and

beauty that he was unable to look away. The light was

beckoning him, drawing him on, and he dove toward

the light and spread his wings.”

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