Devoir de Philosophie

Essay: The Way Up to Heaven

Publié le 22/04/2022

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« Essay: The Way Up to Heaven Roald Dahl is a well-known author of the 20th century. He is famous for his children’s books but has also written some adult stories. One of his most popular adult short stories is The Way Up to Heaven from the book Kiss Kiss published for the first time in 1954. Roald Dahl’s writing reflects a lot of the ways people were thinking during his time. The book Kiss Kiss speaks about one of Roald Dahl’s favourite themes: women. Throughout his work, he places them in different situations showing the complexity of the wife’s position in a marriage which makes the reader question women’s role in a marriage and in society. This book is a true testimony to the gender dynamics in the 50s. The story The Way Up to Heaven tells us about the Fosters, an almost perfect elderly married couple except for the fact that the wife has a sickly fear to be late and the husband seems to take pleasure in torturing his wife by making her late. In fact, we do not really know if he does it on purpose or not, but the narrator leads the reader to think this is the case. To illustrate the dysfunction of the couple, the narrator talks about that time the wife had to catch a plane to see her daughter and grandchildren. To be sure to make it on time, she ended up abandoning her husband alone in their house. At the end, the reader discovers that the husband was actually not left alone in the house but left stuck in the elevator and died during his wife’s long holidays. This story owes its success to the strange feeling of relief felt by the reader when reading about the abandon of the husband which led to his death. It puts the reader in the position of judging the wife’s actions raising questions about guilt and the conditions leading to murder. Is the wife disloyal to her husband? Does she trap him? Is it cruel or is it a deserved revenge? How does it show the toxicity of the gender power dynamic in marriage at that time? To begin, throughout the text, the theme of cruelty is often present and bound to Mr Foster’s behaviour. Mr Foster mistreats his wife. The reader can see a bit of sadism in the character of Mr Foster. For example, he is happy when he thought the taxi was stuck in traffic to go to the airport p.52 ‘There ! Mr Foster cried. We’re stuck. I knew it’. In addition, he acts as he wanted his wife to suffer p.48 ‘It seemed almost as though he had wanted to miss the train simply in order to intensify the poor woman’s suffering’. The text shows that Mr. Foster enjoys hurting her. Then, the reader starts to see glimpses of Mr Foster’s double face. Sometimes, to keep his appearance of a good husband, he pretends to be nice with his wife, for example when he suggests to stay with her when there is nobody at their home p.54 ‘Then, I will stay with you myself’. Despite knowing that his wife has a problem with being late or missing something, he jokes about it and plays with it. His sadistic attitude is shown in actions like slowly going down the stairs, staring at the sky and taking all his time when Mrs Foster has to hurry up: p.55 ‘As on the day before, he paused halfway down to sniff the air and to examine the sky’. The narrator ironically makes us understand that if he is late every time Mrs Foster have to go somewhere, this is not a coincidence p.47 ‘Mind you, it is by no means certain that this is what he did, yet whenever they were to go somewhere, his timing was so accurate - just a minute or two late, you understand’. He does not mind insulting her p.54 ‘Don’t be stupid, woman. Everything you do, you seem to want to make a fuss about it’. What Mr Foster does to his wife is so cruel that even the narrator wonders how she can stand him and still stay with him p.50 ‘But, oh, how she wished she could live there always, and be close to them!‘. The narrator interrupts the story another time and gives his opinion, according to him, Mr Foster is guilty : p.48 ‘Assuming (though one cannot be sure) that the husband was guilty’. In response to her husband’s cruelty and all the mistreating, Mrs Foster takes her own revenge, although, it stays implicit for the reader wether it is a murder or not. For instance, when Mrs Foster decided not to enter in the house, her face became all white p.57 ‘The chauffeur, had he been watching her closely, might have noticed that her face had turned absolutely white and that the whole expression had suddenly altered’. This can be maybe seen as her feeling guilty for leaving her husband stuck in the lift. She might feel empathy for Mr Foster but she forgot this feeling as soon as she gets on the taxi. Finally, when she really understands what has happened to Mr Foster, she is a bit happy p.59 ‘And when she returned few seconds later, there was a little glimmer of satisfaction on her face’. She took her revenge for everything he had done to her. Similarly, as the story unfolds, the reader is led to question the deceptive and disloyal nature of the characters motivations. The narrator presents their thoughts and actions as being of uncertain nature through self-aware comments. For example, on page 47, the narrators states that ‘[her husband] must have been well aware of her state’, but that ‘it is by no means certain that this is what he did’, suggesting that one cannot know whether he is ill-intentioned or simply clumsy. As the story progresses, Mrs Foster, not unlike the reader, comes to doubt the goodwill of her husband. She had been completely loyal to him all her life until now, to the point of comprising her relationship with her family to follow his commands, which is seen on page 49: ‘It had taken months to persuade her husband to allow her to go’. ‘And now, lately, she had come more and more to feel that she did not really wish to live out her days in a place where she could not be near these children, and have them visit her, and take them »


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