The Twits

I was 8, or 9, or 10 when I read The Twits by Roald Dahl. I remember reading it aloud to my parents and laughing so hard we cried. My mom still remembers it, and we have an on-going reference to Mr. Twit tucking food into his beard to snack on later.

The Twits

My sense of humor has changed, apparently, so when I re-read it a couple of months ago, I didn’t find it as funny, rather mean, dark, and a little tedious.

But I still like the illustrations, and I can’t seem to stop pondering this message. In case it’s too blurry to read:

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

True? Not true? I can think of people who radiate beauty because of their personality, kindness, joy, and humor. But I can also think of people I would describe as beautiful who are hounded by self-defeating, negative thoughts.

Still, I think it’s generally true that what people think/feel comes through in how they look. I still remember the face of a woman who simply passed by me on a sidewalk in a small town near Portland. All she did was smile as she passed, but her face! Her smile! Something about her wrinkles and eyes–piercing vivaciousness, even though all she was doing was walking by and smiling in plain, regular clothes, with plain, regular hair.

I thought: I want to be like her. She must live right. She must eat well and love her life. I want to live in a way that makes me look like that!

If I were a better (and more bold) photographer, I’d snap pictures of everyone I find beautiful and post them as an antidote to the same-old-same-old images.

Last example–a boy at the park the other day. I only caught a glimpse of him, and it was during a moment of glee. His caretaker (not sure if it was a mom or nanny or friend) held one hand as he jumped down a tall step and hurried off to something that interested him.

His feet turned inward, his head looked too large for his body, and he spoke in noises instead of words, but he bounced when he moved, his eyes sparkled through thick, round glasses, and his smile stretched wide. If I had to assign one word to him, it would be: bright.

It was as if he carried his own light around with him. That’s the kind of beauty I want to cultivate.



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4 Responses to The Twits

  1. heather says:

    Love this, Trista. And ironically, a few weeks ago, i penned that quote “if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely” up in our guest room! 🙂

  2. Alex Hurst says:

    I’ve never read the book in question, but I think ugly thoughts (I imagine) has less to do with defeatist mentalities and more belittling or disparaging thoughts of others. Going off of what I know to be the morality of children’s books, anyway…. but I do agree that some people have a light that makes up for everything else when they smile. 🙂

  3. njmagas says:

    The Twits was one of my favorite books as a child! I’ve tried reading some Dahl as an adult, and you’re right, it’s not quite the same. His books are absolutely meant for the paradigm of a child, and that’s all right. I can hold onto that feeling, even as an adult.

    As to appearance and positive or negative thoughts, I think a lot of what we see in others is what we reflect from ourselves, either our desires, our ambitions or our fears. We look at ourselves critically because we see our same body every day, yet the flash of a stranger, whose life we no nothing about, is a blank slate for us to write our own narrative and fill with our own conceits.

    • TRISTA says:

      That is so true! I like people-watching, and I always create a sparkling narrative for the people I see. Totally idealized, and yet I don’t realize I’ve done that, and then I hold myself to the standards of those imagined lives.

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