Since I’m snowed in, yes, I am snowed in, I decided to do a bit of light reading. I haven’t read this book in several years and I definitely haven’t reviewed it for the site, so I figured, “Is there a better time to do this?” Probably not.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a classic story for children. Roald Dahl is known for his sometimes outrageous and a bit weird literature. The film adaptations are never as weird as the books. Indeed, this book is stranger than both film adaptations. Neither film gives you the full lyrics of the Oompa-loompah songs, and with good reason, children would probably be scared and parents would be outraged. At times, it seems strange that any parent would let their children read a book such as this, but all the whimsy and mention of chocolate win out in the end.
I will mention that this is not the original text of this story. Roald had to do a bit of a rewrite because the original description of the Oompa-loompahs was considered offensive and politically incorrect. Originally the oompa-loompahs were described as “amiable black pygmies…,” that came from, “the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man had been before.” As you can see, there might be reason for a few people to be upset over this, so subsequent editions of the book sported an entirely different description of the oompa-loompahs, mainly that they were pink-skinned, small, and came from loompahland.
As far as a summary, our main character is named Charlie Bucket. His family is very poor. His father has a job screwing the lids on tubes of toothpaste. As you can imagine it doesn’t pay very much. His four grandparents are bedridden and they share the same bed. Two grandparents are on one side and the other two grandparents are on the other side. Charlie loves to ask his Grandfather Joe about all kinds of things in life, one of the things he asks about is Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Charlie can see the factory from his house and smell the chocolate scent that emanates from it. He desires chocolate greatly, but his family is very poor and Charlie only gets one chocolate bar a year on his birthday. Grandpa Joe explains that no one ever goes in the factory and on one ever goes out, but delicious chocolate is made anyway.
The newspaper soon sports a wonderful announcement. Willy Wonka is going to open up the factory to five lucky children. They children will get to go into the factory if they find one of five golden tickets hidden in regular old Wonka bars. This is a huge event. People start buying up chocolate bars like mad. Charlie’s family hopes for his sake that he will find a golden ticket in his birthday candy bar, but they know it is not likely. Charlie’s bar of chocolate is just plain old chocolate. Soon news of the golden tickets starts trickling in.
The first ticket is found by a fat little boy named Augustus Gloop. The second ticket is found by a girl named Veruca Salt well not really by her, but by her father’s factory workers. The third and fourth tickets are found by a gum-chewing girl named Violet and by a little boy who watches tv all the time, Mike Teavee. Several weeks pass without word of another golden ticket. Charlie’s grandpa Joe gives him his secret stash of money for one more go, but like the other bar of chocolate, it’s just chocolate.
One day while walking home Charlie spots a dollar bill in the street. He uses this to buy two bars of candy. One bar he wolfs down right away, while the other he buys just in case. He opens it, and to his surprise, it’s a golden ticket. Pandemonium erupts and Charlie runs home. It is determined that he will take Grandpa Joe to the factory. Grandpa Joe hopped out of bed and danced at the news of Charlie’s golden ticket, after being bed-ridden for many years. Slacker.
Charlie goes into the factory with the other children the next day. Each child is subsequently weeded off by a series of strange accidents. Each time the oompa-loompahs sing an elaborate song, much longer than any of the film versions. Charlie is finally the only child left and he gets great news.
What I liked
I like chocolate. I really like chocolate. When I die, heaven better be made of chocolate, well, at least there better be chocolate there. Good chocolate is just the best. There is this place I know where I can get dark chocolate key-lime truffles and they’re just heavenly. With all this said, I like reading books about chocolate. I once read an entire biography on Milton Hershey, because I like chocolate. The idea of this marvelous chocolate factory is incredible. We all think chocolate and candy factories should be places of whimsy rather that sterile environments; Roald Dahl is the first person to create this imaginary chocolate factory full of mystery and awe.
Willy Wonka, although a bit strange and a bit morbid, is just this wonderful character. I love all the nonsense associated with him. I have loved both of the Willy Wonka’s portrayed in the film versions. Gene Wilder was an especially good Willy Wonka, while Johnny Depp seemed to bring a unique looniness to the character. Who else is as absurd as Willy Wonka? No one.
I kind of like how Roald pretty much says Violet, Veruca, Augustus and Mike are brats, but doesn’t really come out and say it. Each of the children seem to have some moral lacking indicative of the era. Violet chews come all the time and it too out-spoken for a girl. Augustus eats way too much. Veruca is incredibly spoiled. Mike watches way too much TV. Some of the depictions of these children have changed over the years. The most recent film version depicts Mike TV without his guns. Violet is depicted as this champion that her mother is living vicariously through instead of simply being too out-spoken for a girl. Veruca and Augustus remain mainly the same, because it’s still ok to make fun of fat kids, at least that’s what our society says and you just can’t argue with a little girl being spoiled rotten, at least not yet.
What I didn’t like
There isn’t really much I don’t like about this story. I know people have their problems with it, but it’s whimsical and just weird enough for me. I like the weirdness. I like the whimsy. I like the chocolate.
This is a classic book, that you can still read to your children, despite it’s tarnished past.