The Wish by Roald Dahl

In The Wish by Roald Dahl we have the theme of imagination, innocence, freedom and fear. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Dahl may be exploring the theme of imagination. The young boy believes that by dodging the black and red parts of the carpet he will get what he wants for his birthday. Though this has no relevance it is enough to spark the boy’s imagination. The colour of the carpet is important as the yellow symbolizes safety while the black and red symbolize snakes and fire. If anything the boy makes his task that more difficult by having only one place of safety on the carpet. As with imagination there has to be a challenge and the black and red parts of the carpet are the challenge for the boy.

There is no doubting that the boy is afraid as he walks across the carpet. Dodging the black and red parts of the carpet to the best of his ability. Something he near succeeds in doing. The reader also realizes that the boy is driven by his goal of having a good birthday. This may be significant as the boy is working on his imagination and some degree of superstition. He truly believes if he can stay on the yellow part of the carpet then everything will be okay. This is significant as it highlights how innocence the boy is. He believes his young mind has the capacity to change things. To his advantage. While the reader themselves may know a little better. There are no snakes, or fires on the carpet but this does not persuade the boy of anything different.

Dahl may also be suggesting how easy a person can amuse themselves in order to play a game. Nothing else matters for the boy such is the natural importance of his birthday. However Dahl doesn’t tell the reader what will happen the boy should he fail his task. Will he go for double or nothing and play a different game as well. The fact that the boy’s mother is in the garden could be important as it suggests that the boy has all the time in the world to play games. Something which every child should be allowed to do. Play at their leisure. Without the interference of adults. The stairs might also be important as the boy descends the stairs before he plays his game. It is as though he has a moment of realization at what fun the game of crossing the carpet might be.

The end of the story is interesting as fear returns to the boy when he fails in his task. It is as though it is the end of the world for the boy and he has putting all his eggs in one basket. All this occurs oblivious to his mother who is out in the garden looking for the boy. This too might have some significance as it suggests the boy has a lot of freedom to roam the house. To play as many games as he like. However unfortunately for the boy he has failed in the game with the carpet and fears he will not have a good birthday. All because he took on a near impossible task.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "The Wish by Roald Dahl." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 23 Dec. 2022. Web.


  • This is pretty cool

  • My bf and I just read this short in an anthology bundle. It was a creative and well painted slice of life of a child’s world, a significant amount of time ago.

    However, we interpreted the ending as somewhat morose, as he mentions getting lost in the Piper’s woods last easter. What if he never came back, what if his mother still goes outside everyday in case her son returns, unable to process his passing.

    There is also the possibility that the reason his mother didn’t hear his cry could be simply that he wasn’t there after his fall. And that his birthday wish was to have the conditions of his daydream be absolute, and touching the snakes or glowing coals result in his end.

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