Themes and Characters
Charlie Bucket, the central character in the book, is not really a character at all. Aside from being a well-behaved boy from a poor family, Charlie has no distinguishing qualities and no distinct personality. He is, as his name suggests, an empty container, a shell waiting to be filled. It is the reader who fills in the outline by becoming Charlie. By providing a character who stands for the reader, Dahl propels us into the story in a very direct way.
The other children are more symbols than characters. Augustus Gloop, an obese boy, symbolizes gluttony; Veruca Salt, a spoiled rich girl, embodies selfishness; Violet Beauregarde, a gumchewing chatterbox, exemplifies mindlessness; and Mike Teavee, a television addict, represents idleness. These children have no characteristics other than the behavior flaws that they represent. When they are punished for their sins, the reader can take a righteous pleasure in their fate without feeling pangs of pity.
Another set of characters that figure in the story are the Oompa-Loompas, tiny people who live and work in the factory. In the original 1964 version of the book, they have black skin and are said to be pygmies from Africa. After critics accused Dahl of racism, he changed the portrait of the Oompa-Loompas. In the revised edition, published in 1973, they are no longer black. They have long, wavy hair and come from an imaginary place called Loompaland. Besides working in the factory, at various points...
(The entire section is 474 words.)
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Charlie Bucket is eight years old and poor. He lives with his parents and four grandparents in a small home. They seldom have much food to eat, and Charlie gets a chocolate bar only once a year, on his birthday. He loves chocolate and therefore is curious about the big, mysterious candy factory of Willy Wonka. Dahl presents just enough of Charlie's personality to make him a sympathetic figure, who bears his miseries well, attends school faithfully despite his constant hunger, and is loving toward his family — all good traits of a heroic figure.
Of Charlie's family only the father and Grandpa Joe's characters are developed. As a whole, the family is eccentric. Grandpa Joe is the oldest, being somewhere in his nineties. When Charlie finds a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's factory, he chooses Grandpa Joe, his special friend, to accompany him. After being bedridden for twenty years, Joe discovers that he is able to walk after all, and goes on the factory tour with Charlie. Charlie's father is kindly and works hard to feed his family.
The other children who win a tour of Wonka's factory provide a contrast to Charlie's openhearted, loving nature; their selfish traits are exaggerated so that their personalities are one-dimensional. During the tour, Willy Wonka warns each child to avoid the danger of his or her actions, but each focuses only on what he or she wants. First to leave the tour is Augustus Gloop, the glutton. Gloop bends over the river of...
(The entire section is 492 words.)