Firstly, Royal Dahl recognizes a child’s desire to overcome oppressive authority figures. He encourages the fantasy Of harboring secret or harboring secret magical powers and wielding them over evil adults. Moreover, the story of Mantilla somehow revolves around children plotting the annihilation of an adult authority figure. This is not to say that Dahl is obsessed with turning children against adults, as Mantilla is additionally empowered by Miss Honey, an adult, who believes in her power.
Nonetheless, the corrupt force who assumes an adversarial position to Mantilla is a woman, a fact which has caused many feminist readers to criticize Dahlia’s story, along with many of his other books, and question his gender ideologies. Two of Dahlia’s most recognized stories, Mantilla and The Witches are examples of problematic texts, which use malicious female antagonists to embody corrupt adversaries within the plots. Each of these narratives was created in the sass, when women were beginning to leave their homes and enter the workforces, a move that seemed revolutionary at the time.
Women were starting to gain authority positions in offices, schools, and eve government positions. The most visible of these women was Margaret Thatcher, who in 1 979 became the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Interestingly, many feminist critics have noticed that Dahlia’s female antagonists in Mantilla seem to resemble Thatcher, in a very unflattering way. In Mantilla, Royal Dahl presents a story made up largely of female characters, but does not accentuate any of them as an appealing woman. The only attractive woman in the story is
Mantilla’s teacher, Miss Honey. Miss Honey, gentle, pretty and feminine, is inwardly weak and passive, and is an obvious and easy victim of the principal, Miss Truncheons. Readers are presented with what seems to be Dahlia’s final conclusion on women, that they can either be feminine and womanly and unsuccessful or masculine and successful, not both. On the surface, the story of Mantilla is a liberating one. Mantilla is an overlooked misunderstood five-year-old who escapes her isolated reality through literature.
This small girls is something Of a genius, who teaches resell to read and think unconventionally in a male-oriented home pervaded by television dinners and loud television game shows. It is certainly true that Mantilla resents her father’s imposition of assumptions about gender when he dismisses her intellectual powers and favors her less-gifted brother. Through this, it can clearly be seen that Mantilla is aware of her oppression. The central adult women in Mantilla who influence Mantilla identify with female stereotypes that are often portrayed in fairy tales, good and evil.
Miss Honey fits into the role of the good and Miss Truncheons in the bad. Mantilla’s empowerment comes from the lovely and fragile Miss Honey. When viewers are introduced to Miss Honey, she is the embodied in the patriarchal definition of femininity. Though compassionate and lovely, Miss Honey’s position as a role model is questionable, as her mild nature compromises her relationship with other adults, who use her passivity and vulnerability against her.
The tyrannical and masculine Miss Truncheons rules over Miss Honey, which causes Mantilla to take on the role of the rescuer, a function which usually attributes to the male. Miss Honey becomes a further ineffectual, as she is unable to stand up for herself and has to rely on a child to do it for her. The conclusion can be drawn that if a woman is beautiful and likable, then she must be powerless and weak. The antagonist on the other hand, is Miss Truncheons, the unfeminine, cruel principal. She is used to demonstrate the opposition of Miss Honey, exactly what a woman should not be.
She is described as a terror and a monster that frightened the students and teachers alike. Though she is cruel and unreasonable, she is recognized for her many significant positive accomplishments. She has excelled both in sports as an Olympic athlete and in the world of work as the principal of a school. Though Miss Truncheons is an accomplished and successful woman, unfortunately these achievements become subordinated to her ‘unwomanly/ response to children, which highlights cultural concerns about changing social roles for women in the late twentieth century.
These cultural shifts began producing significant anxiety, especially in relation to motherhood. Furthermore, Miss Truncheons has been connected with Margaret Thatcher, a figure of all of the concerns of the sass combined. Thatcher was known as a masculine woman. She was also known as the ‘iron lady’, a political identification she embraced. She was similarly associated with steely determination and hard-hearted lack of concern for society most vulnerable members: children, the elderly, and the poor.
Thatcher’s “wickedness” and failures of femininity seem to be mirroring the construction of Miss Truncheons as an abrasive, domineering female presence, threatening typical male hierarchy. Consequently, notions of evil and the notions of a powerful woman are created to be synonymous to children, demounting women whose ambitions may not include motherhood or do not possess a strong feminine liking to children. The character Of Mantilla herself fulfills both sides Of the spectrum demonstrated in Miss Honey and Miss Truncheons.
Mantilla takes on many traditionally held male roles in the story, while still fulfilling her role as “a very sensible and quiet little girl”. In the story, Mantilla does not merely befriend Miss Honey; she literally becomes a male figure for Miss Honey, volunteering to rescue her from her problems, as Miss Honey does not possess the strength to achieve this herself. In order to restore Miss Honey to the estate that was unlawfully stolen from her by Miss Truncheons, Mantilla assumes the male identity of Miss Honeys deceased father, Dry.
Honey. Mantilla and Miss Honey devise a plan for Mantilla to simulate the voice of Dry. Honey and demand that Miss Truncheons return to his child her proper inheritance. This moment works to align the power of the child with the power of patriarchy. Several interesting opinions on the role of women are presented in Mantilla. The kind and loving Miss Honey is incredibly passive and impotent in her achievements, and proves a pitiable, helpless female, begging for protection from a small child.
The masculine antagonist, Miss Truncheons, has been professionally and personally successful, but is demonic due to her unemotional and cruel response to children. They only seemingly redeeming woman in the story is Mantilla, who can fulfill both sides of the gender Spectrum. She utilizes power traditionally trusted in the hands of men to reach her goals, while still outwardly complying with the rules of being a sweet, gentle young girl. Finally the story is concluded by restoring everything o what seems to be perfect harmony, but this restoration is actually a return to patriarchy.
The story of Mantilla leaves children intoxicated with the idea of their own potential power, but also plants socially destructive ideas in their thinking about women. The powerful women characters in these novels are immoral figures, whose actions and social statuses cause viewers to root for their destruction. Evil is exemplified as being synonymous with authoritative women, only further degrading the woman who dares step out of her gender role.