What’s the Story?
In Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, poor Charlie Bucket is practically starving. However, he is rich in love, living with his devoted parents and grandparents so old and sick they never get out of bed. Charlie is captivated by his Grandpa Joe’s stories about Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory and his efforts to keep his amazing recipes from leaking to other candy-makers. Charlie is excited when Wonka holds a contest, placing a golden ticket in five chocolate bars; each person who finds a ticket will get to bring a special guest along and visit the factory, and receive a lifetime supply of sweets! Charlie is too poor to buy more than one candy bar a year, so when he wins a ticket, his whole family celebrates. Charlie visits the chocolate factory along with four bratty children: greedy Augustus Gloop, chewing gum addict Violet Beauregarde, spoiled Veruca Salt, and television-obsessed Mike Teavee. What lies in store for the children depends on how they behave on their tour.
Is It Any Good?
Rarely, if ever, has a morality tale been dressed up in such an entertaining story. Roald Dahl clearly has a point to make here, but never does the reader feel he is preaching; he’s just reveling in giving spoiled kids their most perfectly just comeuppance. Dahl has peopled these pages with some highly memorable bad children, and readers everywhere love to laugh with glee at their crazy behavior — and its consequences.
In the best fairy tale tradition, Dahl doesn’t hide the fact that the world can be a grim and unfair place. Charlie’s depressing life of poverty at the beginning of the novel reflects this bleak view, but Dahl also appeals to the strong sense of natural justice in children, and invites them to revel in a marvelously imagined world where people, both good and bad, get exactly what they deserve. It’s also a place where a genius candy-maker invents “eatable marshmallow pillows,” “hot ice cream for cold days,” “fizzy lifting drinks” that make you float, and “rainbow drops” that let you “spit in six different colours.” And, in the end, it’s just the place for Charlie.