Classic Corner: Charlie & The Chocolate Factory


Name: Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

Author: Roald Dahl

Year: 1964

Genre: Children’s, Fantasy

For this months review, I will be taking a look at the classic children’s story by Roald Dahl, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.

I first read this book back when I was eight years old at primary school and watched both movie adaptations (the 1971 Gene Wilder one and the 2005 Johnny Depp one) and it was a great pleasure to revisit the book once again.

Charlie Bucket is a small and very poor boy who lives in a draughty cottage on the outskirts of town, with his parents Mr and Mrs. Bucket and both sets of grandparents, Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine and Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina. Charlie’s family are so poor that he only gets his favourite thing in the world, chocolate, once a year on his birthday and instead of a TV or books, his grandparents tell Charlie stories, including one about the famous chocolate factory in the town, owned by Willy Wonka.

Willy Wonka was a very famous chocolate maker and employed many people. However one day, fearing industrial spies were stealing his recipes, he got rid of all of his workers and shut the factory down. For a long time the factory appeared derelict but then one day the machinery began to operate again. However, since that day no one has every gone in or out apart from the post office drivers collecting deliveries. Charlie longs to find out more about the factory, especially as he regularly has to breathe in the delicious smells from the factory on his way to school, despite being very hungry.

One day Mr Bucket reads in the paper that Willy Wonka is running a competition. Inside his chocolates will be five random Golden Tickets and whoever wins one will be invited to a tour of his factory and a lifetime supply of sweets. Charlie hopes and prays that his birthday chocolate bar will have the ticket but unfortunately it doesn’t.

Slowly four of the winning tickets are won by  greedy and fast Augustus Gloop, spoiled brat Veruca Salt, the chewing gum obsessed Violet Beauregarde and the TV obsessed Mike Teevee. At the same time, Charlie and his family’s situation gets more desperate as Mr Bucket loses his job at the toothpaste factory and is the only source of income in the family.

One winter’s day Charlie is walking from school and happens to come across a 50 pence piece. He decides he will treat himself to a chocolate as he is so hungry and give the rest to his mum. He buys a chocolate which doesn’t have a ticket and eats it then decides to get one more. Inside is the fifth and final Golden Ticket.

The ticket says to be outside the factory at 10am sharp the next day with an adult or both parents. Charlie goes with his Grandpa Joe, who has a new lease of life following Charlie’s win. Willy Wonka meets the children and takes them around the wonderful and marvellous factory.

The first room they visit is the Chocolate Room, a beautiful underground valley where everything is edible with a chocolate river running through it. We also meet the Oompa-Loompas, tiny people Wonka found in Loompaland and bought them to work in his factory as they were starving and loved cacao which is used in making chocolate. In this room Augustus Gloop gets greedy and tries to eat some of the chocolate and falls into the river, getting sucked into the pipes which transport chocolate from the river through the factory. Wonka tells the Oompa Loompas to take his parents and try to get him out of the pipes.

Wonka then summons a boat made out of boiled sweets from the river and takes them down river to The Inventing Room. In this room Wonka shows them his latest inventions, including a chewing gum he is working on which gives people a three course meal in one gum. On hearing this, Violet Beauregarde immediately takes out the gum she is eating and snatches one. Initially she tastes a tomato soup starter and a roast beef main, however when she gets to the pudding of a blueberry pie she starts to turn purple and blow up into a blueberry. The Oompa Loompas roll her away, with her parents in tow.

Next Wonka takes them through a maze of corridors to the Nut Room. He tells them to only look through the window where squirrels are used to break the nuts out of walnuts to use in his chocolate bars. Any nuts that the squirrels deem to be bad nuts they throw down the rubbish chute. Here Veruca Salt, who has gone round the factory demanding her parents buy her one of everything she has seen so far decides she wants one of the squirrels. Her dad tries to buy one but Wonka refuses. Running out of patience, Veruca storms her way in and tries to grab a squirrel. In doing so, all of the squirrels pin her down and the leader taps her head as they did with the other nuts. Deciding she is a bad nut the squirrels then carry her and throw her down the rubbish chute. Her parents run in after her and look into the chute, where the squirrels kick them both down after her.

Now with just Charlie and Mike Teevee left, Wonka takes them into his glass elevator which travels up, down, sideways and diagonally. Inside is rows and rows of buttons and Wonka says both Mike and Charlie can choose one each. Mike Teevee goes first and chooses the TV Room. The room is brightly lit and he makes them all put on dark glasses. Wonka explains that he is working on a technology to send chocolate through TV airwaves to people’s homes where they can grab it. He demonstrates with a large chocolate bar which with a button press shrinks down to a normal size bar. Mike Teevee then runs to the camera and decides to use the technology himself and he does make it through but in a similar way to the chocolate shrinking, Mike Teevee shrinks to the size of a tiny fly. Wonka asks the Oompa Loompas to take him to the Chewing Gum Stretching Room to stretch him out and his parents go with them.

After they leave, Wonka realizes only Charlie is left and it is here he declares Charlie the winner and reveals his true intentions. He is getting old and wants to retire but with no children of his own he needs a successor to take over the factory. As he felt that an adult would try to change how the factory was run he decided he needed a child who could learn from him and as the last child standing, Charlie was that child. Wonka, Charlie and Grandpa Joe go back to the lift and Wonka hits a button which causes it to burst through the roof.

He then flies it back to their cottage and crashes through it. Charlie then reveals to his parents the news and they put the bed with the grandparents into the lift with themselves as the book closes.

I absolutely loved this story as a child and it was still great fun to read it now. Charlie Bucket is a wonderful character who Dahl makes sure you really root for. He comes from a very poor background but yet doesn’t let that faze him and is a very well behaved child with his parents and grandparents and you really feel he deserves the break when he wins the Golden Ticket – if anything just so he can win the lifetime of food.

The other children are also very well created and still stand the test of time today, every child in their school days has come across at least one of these children, whether they are greedy, technologically obsessed, always eat chewing gum or are spoilt brats. It also draws the distinction between Charlie and the others, he comes from a family that doesn’t have anything and is the only one to be grateful just to be in the factory.

When the factory section opens, Dahl lets his imagination run wild with the Chocolate Room with the river flowing through it made of chocolate, the brilliant sweets he is inventing, the well-trained squirrels and singing Oompa-Loompas, the magical elevator which goes everywhere in the factory. There are so many imaginative things in here which children will love to read about, as I did for the first time when I was eight.

However, as an adult reading it I also notice the book actually seems to have a slightly darker undertone to it. As a child it seems all these things happen by chance but as an adult it almost seems like Wonka plans some of it.

Earlier in the book the children who win the tickets are interviewed so he knows Augustus is greedy and Violet is obsessed with gum so he seems to take them specifically to a room where everything is edible and in another room is a magical chewing gum you can almost tell Violet wouldn’t resist.

Of course the undoing’s of Mike Teevee and Veruca Salt seem more like chance but really does it? Veruca Salt is clearly a spoilt brat and Wonka knows this and probably knows at any point that she will want something she can’t have which will make her react in that way. Also he knows Mike Teevee is interested in technology and allows them to go to the TV Room.

I found this realization really fascinating and makes Wonka appear to me as a much darker character than I remembered. It is especially interesting when as a child I always preferred the Gene Wilder version of the film but from this reading I can understand the darker undertones in Tim Burton’s version of the film and Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the character.

I also had forgotten the books sense of humour with the Oompa Loompas and Wonka pretending to not hear if another character asks him an awkward question.

I also like the books themes and that it doesn’t shy away from showing Charlie’s desperate situation which does maybe hit home more as an adult than it does as a child and the theme of rising above adversity. It is also a reminder with the other children that it isn’t always a good idea to put your own interests in front of over people’s.

Overall I would highly recommend this book for children and adults alike as it is well worth a visit or revisit to Willy Wonka’s factory now and again.

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