“Lucky Break”

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Plot Description

This isn’t really much of a story. It’s mostly just Dahl’s advice for becoming a writer and anecdotes about how he fell into the profession. A lot of the school passages seem to be reproduced in Boy.

Spoiler warning! Dahl starts off by giving advice to people who want to become full-time professional writers. He says that you have to have another day job to start, and he gives a list of qualities that you should possess. Then he flashes back to his days at St. Peter’s Prep School, where boys were savagely beaten for any infraction of the rules. He looks over some of his school reports trying to see any hint of his future career, but most of his teachers give him horrible marks in English Composition. His only good memories of those school years were the Saturday afternoons when the teachers would all go off to the pub and a local woman, Mrs. O’Connor, was brought in to watch the boys. Instead of merely babysitting them, though, she taught them about the entire history of English literature. By the time Dahl left for Repton, he was an insatiable reader. Repton was even worse for him, and when he left school he decided to work for Shell and visit exotic lands. He was posted to East Africa, but left in 1939 to join the R.A.F. and fight in World War II. He tells of his training and of the horrific crash that eventually got him invalided home. Then the R.A.F. decided to send him to America as “Assistant Air Attaché”. While there, he was contacted by the famous author C.S. Forester, who wanted to write a story about the crash. Dahl wrote down everything he could remember and sent it to Forester, who responded, “Did you know you were a writer?” The story was published “without any changes” in the Saturday Evening Post. Dahl goes on to talk about The Gremlins and how he was eventually able to meet Franklin Roosevelt. At the end of the story, Dahl talks about the red notebook that he wrotes down all of his plot ideas in. He even shows the reader the blurbs that eventually become Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and “Henry Sugar”. And that, he says, is “how I became a writer.”

“Galloping Foxley”

Sections: Information | Plot Description | Reviews | Teacher Ideas


Plot Description

This story has a very autobiographical feeling to it, and one can’t help but wonder whether it actually happened to Dahl or not. His feelings about the English Public School system are well-documented (see Boy – Tales of Childhood or Jeremy Treglown’s Roald Dahl: A Biography), and he loads this short story full of so many intense details that it seems unlikely he would ever make such a thing up. Perkins also attends Repton, where Dahl himself went to school.

Spoiler warning! The story, if indeed it can be called that (since there really isn’t much of a plot at all), is about a “contented commuter” named William Perkins. He is a distinguished businessman and prides himself on the regularity and precision with which he goes about his daily routine. One day his peace is shattered, however, when a newcomer joins the usual group waiting for the commuter train. After several days of grudging conversation with this obnoxious man, Perkins suddenly recognizes him as Bruce “Galloping” Foxley, an older boy who sadistically tormented and tortured him for years in school. The entire story then comes to a grinding halt as fifty-year-old memories begin to flood Perkins: warming the toilet seat for Foxley, cleaning Foxley’s study, receiving a beating from Foxley. As Perkins becomes more and more shaken by these memories, he decides to reveal himself to the man and watch his reaction. He leans over and introduces himself: “My name is Perkins – William Perkins – and I was at Repton in 1907.” Imagine his surprise, then, when his companion answers, “I’m glad to meet you. Mine’s Fortescue – Jocelyn Fortescue, Eton 1916.” He is NOT Galloping Foxley!


Teacher Ideas