Dahl writes amazing stories for children which come to life with the illustrations of Quentin Blake. Sometimes I wonder what came first, Dahl's story or Blake's illustration!
I've read George's Marvellous Medicine a number of times and each time I discover something new. Dahl's characters are very strong and each one contributes and, at times, steers the story through his/her personality. The children in his stories are not rebellious, mischievous or disobedient. They just want to make sense of the world and are puzzled by the attitude of adults towards them. They are sensitive and inquisitive, just like all children, and through their experiments (like in the case of George), they want to make things right.
George is a good kid who has a grumpy Grandma. Now, we might not be able to relate immediately with George because most of us have nice grandmothers who spoil us and bring us toys. But George's Grandma was not nice to him at all. "She spent all day and every day sitting in her chair by the window, and she was always complaining, grousing, grouching, grumbling, griping about something or other. Never once, even on her best days, had she smiled at George and said, 'Well, how are you this morning, George?".
Dahl draws such an evil character sketch of the grandmother that the reader has no sympathy for her. The grandmother is symbolic of any mean adult you might have come across as a child; a strict aunt who always complained about your shoes being dirty when you went to her house or a grumpy old uncle who would keep asking you about your grades at school or maybe your principal who would always find something wrong with your uniform and give you a dressing down during the assembly.
So George decides to make a medicine which would, somehow, do something to Grandma. What that something was, he couldn't put his finger on. Being a child, his imagination knew no end and he set to work on a new medicine for his evil grandmother. The medicine itself is a piece of art. It includes almost anything and everything that George can find in the house; Golden Gloss hair shampoo, toothpaste, scarlet nail varnish, Dishworth's Famous dandruff Cure, liquid paraffin, Waxwell floor polish, flea powder for dogs, brown shoe polish, curry powder, mustard powder, extra hot chilli sauce, animal medicine, engine oil, anti-freeze, and dark brown gloss paint. Whew!
What does the medicine do to Grandma? On taking just a spoonful, she jumps off the sofa and remains hanging in mid-air for a while. Then smoke bellows out of her ears and nose, and it seems she's on fire! Once George douses her with water, she starts growing and she grows so tall, she comes right out of the roof of the house! The medicine does bring a change in Grandma physically, but otherwise, she is more or less the same; grumpy, and grouchy. So how does the medicine really fix Grandma? Well, that you must read and find out for yourself! [Her greed, impatience and jealousy makes her take a lethal dose of the wrong medicine (even though George tries to stop her) and puff!].
Two other characters in the book are George's parents, Mr & Mrs. Kranky. Mr. Kranky is a pretty ordinary guy. Again, through this character, Dahl shows a greedy side of adults. On discovery of the wonder that George's medicine can do, his father wants George to feed it to all the animals in the farm so they grow big and tall as Grandma. Then he wants George to make lots more of the medicine which they could sell all over the world and thus, become rich. As adults always do, Mr. Kranky hides his ulterior motive from George behind the mask of 'helping and feeding the world'. If you read between the lines, you can see what a shallow character Mr. Kranky is.
So next time you're grumpy to a a kid, beware! He/she might just give you a 'marvellous medicine' when you fall ill! And then, puff!
What is the one item you would add to the marvellous medicine and who would you give it to? Do tell.
Photographs: Google Images