How is Willy Wonka the anti-hero in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

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mthiringer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An antihero, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, is defined as "a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities." In Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka fits this description perfectly. He is the most notable figure in the story, aside from Charlie Bucket, and in spite of being not an antagonist, he is rather unlikeable. On multiple occasions he insults the children visiting the factory and/or their parents, although often his insults go unnoticed due to being spoken quickly or under his breath. He "conspicuously" has no social radar, even though his comment regarding cannibalism shows that he knows that some things are socially unacceptable.

Yet we can see that he isn't all bad, through his concern for Violet Beauregard and Mike Teevee when they are in peril, and his comment about liking the way Grandma Georgina smells. He is obviously worried about the continued success of his chocolate factory, as we can see from his questions about Charlie's (or anyone's) ability to run the business with a family hanging over him.

In the end, the fact that Willy Wonka is socially inept does not keep him from valuing his family any less, as the narrator indicates at the conclusion of the movie that he finds nothing sweeter.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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