Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
As a result of having been adapted to the screen not once but twice, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the best known of Dahl’s works. Although both the cinematic adaptations follow the general story line, each introduces a certain amount of artistic liberty, which has resulted in some confusion as to the actual plot line of the original novel. For instance, in the 1971 adaptation, the squirrels that are the downfall of Veruca Salt are replaced by giant geese that lay golden chocolate eggs and Slugworth is revealed to be an agent of Wonka’s, while in the 2005 adaptation an extensive backstory is created for Wonka. In the first film, the Oompa-Loompas, the midget workers in Wonka’s factory, do not sing the songs from the book, while the second film adapts Dahl’s lyrics.
The story centers around the title character, Charlie Bucket, who lives with his parents and all four grandparents in a tiny house. Although the story is clearly set in the modern world, as television plays an important part in the plot, there is no evidence of modern social welfare services to ameliorate the poverty of the Bucket family’s life, which seems more reminiscent of the Victorian era and Gilded Age. None of Charlie’s grandparents seems to be receiving government assistance, and when Charlie’s father is laid off from his low-paying job as a result of automation, there is no unemployment check to fend off impending starvation.
However, the anachronistic impoverishment only serves to underline Charlie’s love for chocolate and the seeming...
(The entire section is 642 words.)
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Roald Dahl is one of the best-loved authors of children’s books in the world. He was born in Wales but spent most of his life in England. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published in 1964. Dahl died in 1990, but his books are still read and enjoyed by children everywhere.
In a little wooden house located on the edge of town live Mr. Bucket and his parents, Mrs. Bucket and her parents, and Charlie Bucket. The town is great but the house is far too small for all seven of them. There are only two rooms and one bed. The grandparents get the bed because they are worn out, but they are so worn out they never leave their bed. Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine live at one end of the bed; Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina live at the other end. Charlie and his parents sleep on mattresses on the floor in the other room. In the winter, they all get very cold.
Mr. Bucket has a job; he screws toothpaste lids onto toothpaste tubes in a local toothpaste factory. No matter how fast he works, though, he is never able to earn enough money for his family. Their main food is cabbage, and there is never enough to make them all feel full. They are always hungry. Charlie feels the hunger the worst, and he longs for something other than cabbage or cabbage soup. He longs for chocolate. As he passes a candy shop on his way to school, Charlie presses his nose against the window and dreams of eating the delicious treat. When his classmates are enjoying their chocolate, Charlie is envious. Charlie’s entire family saves money all year so they can buy Charlie one chocolate bar for his birthday—a candy bar he can eat all by himself. He treats it as if it were gold and makes the ten-cent chocolate bar last for an entire month.
The worst thing is that Charlie lives in the shadow of a gigantic chocolate factory. This is not just any old chocolate factory. This is the largest chocolate factory in the world, and it is owned by Mr. Willy Wonka, the greatest inventor and chocolate-maker who ever lived. The sights and smells of this factory are unbearably tantalizing. Walking to and from school, Charlie has to smell the delicious aroma of melted chocolate and then go home to a dinner of watery cabbage soup. After dinner, the boy goes into his grandparents’ room to visit them. They are all over ninety years old, and this is the brightest moment of every day for them. For that half hour, the Bucket household is almost happy.
One night Grandpa Joe, the oldest of the old ones, tells Charlie about all the amazing and wonderful things Mr. Willy Wonka has made in his chocolate factory. Prince Pondicherry of India even commissioned him to build a spectacular palace of chocolate. It was an amazing feat but soon melted in the hot sun. Grandpa Joe then speaks very quietly, as if he is telling a secret. He says no one ever goes in or out of the factory. Charlie is unsure whether to believe such a story, but all four old heads nod in agreement. Charlie realizes he has only seen closed gates every time he walks by the factory. Not so many years ago, there used to be thousands of workers, continues Grandpa Joe, but too many of them became spies for competing companies, sharing the secrets of Mr. Wonka’s amazing creations. So one day he simply locked the gates and shut down the factory. It stood idle for months until about ten years ago, when all of a sudden the chimneys were smoking and the machines where whirring again. The people were puzzled because still no one had come in or out of the factory, yet they could see the shadows of people working behind the frosted glass windows. They are very short people, says Grandpa Joe, and the others nod in agreement.
Mr. Bucket interrupts the storytelling session, waving a newspaper and asking if they have heard the news. The headline reads, “WONKA FACTORY TO BE OPEN AT LAST TO LUCKY FEW.” The article explains that five lucky children—and no more—will be allowed to come into the factory and see inside. Five Golden Tickets will be placed in chocolate bars that might be found anywhere in the world. The holders of these tickets will get to tour the factory and will get all the chocolate treats they want for the rest of their lives. Charlie’s birthday is next week, so he will be getting one chocolate bar. He is not hopeful that his single little chocolate bar could possibly contain one of the prizing-winning Golden Tickets.
A boy called Augustus Gloop finds the first Golden Ticket immediately. He is an enormous nine-year-old who does nothing but sit around and eat chocolate all day. Suddenly the whole world is gripped with greed as everyone tries to find a Golden Ticket. Children spend the money from their piggy banks, one man robbed a bank and bought chocolate bars with the money he stole, and an evil professor even created a machine that would snatch anything gold it found (until it stole the gold fillings from a duchess and was smashed into pieces by the crowd). A small, rich girl from a faraway city finds the second Golden Ticket. Her name is Veruca Salt, and her father bought hundreds of thousands of Wonka chocolate bars to appease his demanding daughter. He made the workers in his peanut factory stop shelling peanuts and start opening candy bars until a Golden Ticket was found four days later. Now the spoiled Veruca is content.
Finally it is Charlie’s birthday, and his yearly Wonka chocolate bar has been bought, a Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgmallow Delight bar. He tenderly carries his only birthday gift into his grandparents’ room. They try to prepare him for the worst; they know the odds of his getting one of the three remaining Golden Tickets in this one little chocolate bar. Charlie delays unwrapping the bar, then he suddenly just rips it open. Out falls a delicious-looking chocolate bar but no Golden Ticket. It is a long walk to school for Charlie that morning.
That evening, the paper tells of two more ticket winners. Miss Violet Beauregarde, an incessant gum chewer, finds the third ticket. She used to place her sticky, chewed gum on elevator buttons so people would unknowingly put their fingers into the disgusting mass; now she is chewing one piece of gum and hopes to set the world’s record for gum chewing. Mike Teavee wins the fourth ticket. A young man consumed with weapons, violence, and television, he is annoyed by the publicity he is getting for having a silly gold piece of paper.
The next day when Charlie goes in to visit his grandparents, only Grandpa Joe is awake. He tells Charlie to be quiet and digs under his pillow for an old, tattered coin purse. After reminding Charlie to remain still, he pulls out a dime, his secret savings that no one else knows about. He insists Charlie go buy the first Wonka chocolate bar he can find, and they will open it together to see if they might have won the final Golden Ticket. Five minutes later Charlie returns with a Nutty Crunch Surprise bar, and they open it gingerly after much hesitation and giggling. It is just a delicious bar of chocolate.
The next two weeks are cold and snowy and miserable. In such times people are not thinking about Golden Tickets; they are thinking only of staying warm and eating good food. The little Bucket home is always cold and there is never enough for all seven of them to eat. Things grow even worse when the toothpaste factory unexpectedly closes and Mr. Bucket is unable to get another job. They are all slowly starving. On the way home from school one day, Charlie cannot believe his good fortune when he finds a dollar bill partially buried in the snow. He plans to buy one bar of candy and eat it immediately before taking the rest of the money home to his family. He steps into a stationery and newspaper shop and asks for a Wonka Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight. When the fat man behind the counter hands it to him, Charlie wolfs it down so quickly the man is afraid the boy will get a stomachache. Nine shiny dimes are on the counter. Charlie decides that one less dime will not make that much difference and quietly but decisively asks for one more chocolate bar of the same kind. As he peels back the paper, Charlie sees a glint of gold.
The shopkeeper begins screaming that Charlie has won the final Golden Ticket and calls for the newspaper to come see the boy who has won the final spot for the tour of Mr. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Soon a noisy crowd is gathered around the young boy who has not even unwrapped the ticket from around the candy bar in his hand. One man presses close and offers to buy the ticket for fifty dollars and a new bicycle; a woman hears the offer and says she will pay five hundred for the ticket. The crowd begins to grow raucous. The shopkeeper ushers Charlie quietly out the door and tells him to go straight home. He says he is glad such a nice thing has happened to a boy who looks like he could use something nice in his life.
Charlie runs all the way home. When he arrives and tells his story, none of his family can believe it. He finally shows them his ticket. Grandpa Joe, who has not been out of bed in twenty years, jumps up and begins dancing around the floor. The ticket is made of paper-thin gold, and on it is an explanation of what is to come. On February 1, at ten o’clock sharp, each ticket holder plus one or two family members is welcome to enter the gates of the magical factory, where untold wonders await them. The small but elated group suddenly realizes that February 1 is tomorrow, so they scurry to get their boy ready for his big day. It is decided that Grandpa Joe will accompany Charlie on his fantastical adventure.
Crowds and photographers and reporters are gathered at the factory gates the next morning. Each of the other ticket holders has both parents with them, and their parents have to hold the children back from storming the entrance. In contrast, Charlie and his grandfather stand patiently and quietly. As the church bells chime the hour, the gates open and out walks Mr. Willy Wonka himself. In his formal attire and top hat, he appears excited for the day ahead of him. His eyes are sparkling, and he looks as if he is clever and waiting at the same time. He does a quick little dance and meets each child and set of parents as they enter through the gates. Mr. Wonka then ushers them through a red door. He says he has to keep the factory quite warm, for his workers are not used to such cold weather. There is a long, wide corridor ahead of them, and they follow their sprightly leader as he makes his way through the labyrinthine hallways, which always slope downward where the most fantastic things are found, according to Mr. Wonka. He explains that he only has room enough for everything underground, and then he stops in front of a shiny metal door labeled The Chocolate Door.
As he unlocks The Chocolate Door, Mr. Wonka tells everyone to stay calm as they enter this most beautiful room. The five children and nine grownups push their way into the room, and there they see the most amazing thing: a lovely valley with green meadows and a tremendous, thundering waterfall. A cluster of gigantic glass pipes are hanging from somewhere very high up; they are sucking the “brownish muddy” water from the river just below the waterfall and carrying it away to somewhere unknown. It is bubbling through the pipes most delightfully, and gorgeous flowers are everywhere. Mr. Wonka points at the river with his cane and tells them it is a river made of chocolate—enough to fill every bathtub and swimming pool in the country. The glass tubes are delivering thousands of gallons of chocolate every hour to other parts of the factory. The visitors are dumbfounded by the spectacle. Their charming tour guide tells them that the waterfall churns the chocolate, making it light and delectable. Everything else in the valley is also edible, he continues, including the grass they are standing on, which he calls “swudge.” When Mr. Wonka invites them to try a blade, each of them do so—except for Augustus Gloop, who takes a whole handful. Before tasting her edible blade of grass, Violet Beauregarde takes her world-record-breaking gum out of her mouth and places it behind her ear. Charlie whispers to his grandfather that the swudge is simply wonderful.
Suddenly Veruca Salt screams and points excitedly at a little person moving in the meadow below them. As they all continue to look at the unusual sight, more of the little men appear. They whisper and point at the children above them, then they burst into laughter. Mr. Wonka tells the group they are real people; they are Oompa-Loompas, imported from Loompaland. They were once an oppressed people, harassed by hornswogglers and snozzwangers and whangdoodles, the most dangerous beasts in the world. Mr. Wonka found the entire village of Oompa-Loompas living in tree houses and eating mashed green caterpillars. What they craved more than anything else was cacao beans, but they rarely ever found more than three or four beans a year. When the strange chocolatier offered them all the cacao beans they could ever want (he has plenty because chocolate is made from cacao beans), the entire village moved to the underground factory. Veruca Salt demands that her father get her an Oompa-Loompa; he tells her he will get her one before they leave.
Mrs. Gloop suddenly sees that her son has left the group and is standing at the edge of the chocolate...
(The entire section is 5520 words.)