Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Department name when degree awarded

American Studies(Folklore)


Patricia Gantt


Roald Dahl does not easily fit into a category as a writer, contributing fiction and nonfiction to both children and adult audiences. Faced with this ambiguity, the literary community has mostly ignored his contributions since he is mainly viewed as a children‘s author. Late in life, Dahl created two autobiographies, Boy: Tales of Childhood (1984), and Going Solo (1986), as venues for sharing his many embellished, personal stories. This thesis focuses on Going Solo, the second of these two books which explores Dahl‘s three-year departure from England, including his enlistment in the Royal Air Force during World War II. During this same time period, he wrote 126 personal letters and telegrams to his family. He had experienced much change in his life during the nearly fifty-year gap from when the letters were written to when he crafted Going Solo for a more general audience. By comparing this personal correspondence to Going Solo, it is possible to see how memory and self-selection permitted the author to craft a personal narrative interested as much in reconstructing his public persona as recounting true events from his past.

This thesis asserts that Dahl does not rely exclusively on his letters when reconstructing the narrative and instead inserts himself into a larger historical narrative. Dahl used Going Solo to point to the locations where his personal narrative collides with history and emotions. This is particularly true in the last half of the book where he comes to rely on historical touchstones. It is full of places and people which evoke memories and strong feelings for him. Dahl also relied on techniques and motifs found in folktales, features that make his work of particular interest to folklorists. The final chapter offers an examination of these techniques used in The BFG, Dahl‘s most autobiographical work of children‘s literature, written only four years prior to Going Solo. By paying closer attention to his methodology, we gain a clearer understanding of how folklore functions in the development of literary personal narrative.




This work made publicly available electronically on September 1, 2011.