Roald Dahl's The Twits
illustrated by Quentin Blake
Book review by Steve Barancik
Meet Mr. and Mrs. Twit. Mr. has a beard, and you know there's nothing more disgusting than that. Mr. Twit's beard contains the foul history of everything he's ever eaten.
Mrs. Twit is ugly in the way that only ugly thoughts can make you. Not that her thoughts are any uglier than her husband's, though. Nearly the first half of the book is devoted to the couple's serial, darkly comical efforts to make each other miserable.
But that's just character development. The Twits' hatefulness isn't only directed at each other. In fact, their hate unites them as well.
They enjoy killing birds--with glue--because they so enjoy Bird Pie. They keep a family of four monkeys in a small cage, tormenting them in hopes of one day making a circus show out of them.
The monkeys--Muggle Wump, his wife and two kids--not only feel their own misery but that of the poor birds who unknowingly land upon The Big Dead (glue-covered) Tree.
African immigrants who don't speak English, the monkeys can't even warn the unknowing avians away. That is, until the arrival of a vacationing Roly-Poly Bird (an African native himself).
It's the arrival of this magnificent bird that allows Muggle Wump to implement a plan of revenge...and justice.
Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, gives us another dark, humorous treat, assisted, as ever, by Quentin Blake's perfectly twitted--I mean, twisted--illustrations. Short, well-titled chapters (29 of them!) make this book eminently readable.
Some adults have been known to find Dahl a little off-putting, with his dark depictions and often cruel consequences. Those adults will find plenty to dislike here. This author's world is never about rainbows and kittens.
But as awful as the title characters are, Dahl does precisely nothing to endorse their behavior, and in fact provides substantial moral underpinning in the form of a narrator who finds the Twits even more foul than we do and a vengeance-minded monkey so eager to dish out comeuppance that he gets a bit short with his family and companions.
It all turns out well...if well means that the villains of the title, The Twits, meet a twisted, well-deserved end. Look no further than their pictures to know that they deserved it!
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