Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 5520
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.
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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 river, gulping as much of the warm chocolate as he can. When Mr. Wonka sees Augustus with his hands in the river, he is dismayed and asks the boy to stop because his chocolate must remain untouched by human hands. Although his mother calls him many times and Mr. Wonka asks him repeatedly to quit dirtying the chocolate, Augustus does not appear to hear them and is intent on eating even more. Now he is lying on the ground and leaning far over the chocolate river, lapping at it like a dog. As his father shouts at him that he has leaned over too far, Augustus falls into the flowing river and is swept downstream toward the glass tubes. The oversized boy is sucked into the tube, but soon he is stuck because of his protruding belly. The pressure builds until suddenly the boy is propelled through the tube by a great explosion of chocolate. The Gloops are worried that their son will be turned into some kind of candy; however, Mr. Wonka just laughs and assures them the boy will be fine. When his parents insist on seeing their son, Mr. Wonka snaps his fingers crisply three times, and an Oompa-Loompa appears. He takes the Gloops away. Five more Oompa-Loompas across the river begin beating on drums and dancing about wildly, then they burst into a song about a greedy little boy named Augustus Gloop.
The group has shrunk to eleven. They prepare to travel to the next room in a lovely Viking-like boat made of something that looks like pink glass. It is manned by hundreds of Oompa-Loompas, at least ten of them pulling at each oar. Once they are all on board (amid the laughter of the little people), Mr. Wonka asks Mike Teavee not to lick the boat, for it is made from a hollowed-out sweet and will get sticky. Veruca Salt begins demanding that her father get her a boat like this one. Sitting quietly in the back of the boat, Grandpa Joe leans over to Charlie and says what the girl really needs is a “good kick in the pants.” Charlie is stunned by the marvels and the beauty of it all and simply tries to absorb it all as they proceed on their tour. Mr. Wonka grabs two mugs from the bottom of the boat, dips them in the chocolate river, and hands them to the Buckets, saying they look half-starved. Charlie and his grandfather drink the sweet beverage and find it absolutely delightful. Looming ahead of them in the river is a large, dark tunnel. As the Oompa-Loompas row furiously, the boat is propelled into the tunnel, and all but the two quietest passengers shout out insults about the sanity of their host. Suddenly Mr. Wonka gives an order for the lights to be turned on, and the tunnel is now filled with brilliant light that reflects off the spotless white walls. The river is flowing faster now, and the boat is moving at a “furious pace.” The captain of the ship is enjoying himself tremendously.
They pass several doors along the river. When a bright red door appears ahead of them, Mr. Wonka hollers for the rowers to stop the boat, which they do. This door says, “Inventing Room—Private—Keep Out.” He tells them that all of his competitors would love to have a peek into this room, for it is the place where all his new secret concoctions are “cooking and simmering.” Before now, not one other person, not even an Oompa-Loompa, has ever been admitted into this room. Their host warns them not to touch or taste or meddle in any way with the items in this room, and all the children quickly agree. Great iron pots and kettles are hissing and gurgling, noisy machines are clanging, and pipes are running everywhere. Clearly this is Mr. Wonka’s favorite room, as he is dancing and hopping about more than ever. He peeks into pots and tastes a barrel of yellow sticky stuff. Then he examines an item that plopped out of a basket and onto the floor. Displaying the marble-like ball, he announces it is an Everlasting Gobstopper. It is a candy that can be sucked on forever and will never get smaller. An Oompa-Loompa is testing one in the room next door; he has been sucking on it for a year and it is still like new. Hair Toffee is another experimental project, though it now grows way too much hair on anyone who eats it.
In the middle of the room is a most wondrous machine that splashes and whizzes and twirls and sloshes liquids in every color of the rainbow. The machine makes a strange sucking noise, as if it were inhaling, and it pops out a small strip of something very blue. Violet is the first to recognize the newly made product as a stick of gum, and she squeals her delight. Mr. Wonka explains that this is the most stupendous chewing gum ever made, for it provides an entire meal in one small package. This one is tomato soup, roast beef, and blueberry pie. Anyone who chews it will actually feel as if he (or she) is really eating and will feel full and satisfied. Violet, of course, wants to chew the gum, though her mother discourages her and Mr. Wonka tells her the formula is not quite right yet. Neither of those warnings stops her, however, and she pops the stick of gum into her mouth. She is delighted by the delicious tastes and ignores Mr. Wonka’s admonition to spit out the gum. Her parents are quite proud that their daughter is the first to eat a meal simply by chewing gum. As Violet describes the delicious blueberry pie she tastes, her parents are shocked to see their daughter’s face beginning to turn blue. Soon her entire body is the color of blueberry juice. Mr. Wonka shakes his head and says it always goes wrong at the dessert. Now another amazing thing is happening to Violet—she is blowing up into a giant blueberry. Her parents are distraught, but their host assures them that after the Oompa-Loompas roll her back to the boat and juice her in the Juicing Room, she will probably be as good as new. As the boat heads down the river, Charlie and his grandfather hear the rowers singing a song about a bad little girl who chewed gum.
Now there are only three children remaining. Mr. Wonka leads them through a small, secret door behind some pipes and into a large, pink corridor. Their leader is frolicking quickly through the hallway, and the Buckets have to hurry to keep up with him. Along the way they see several doors, including Eatable Marshmallow Pillows, Lickable Wallpaper for Nurseries, Hot Ice Creams for Cold Days, Cows that Give Chocolate Milk, and Fizzy Lifting Drinks. Veruca wonders why they cannot stop at any of these delightful rooms, but Mr. Wonka just keeps moving and talking—until he suddenly halts at a door that says “Square Candies That Look Round.” Through the half of the door that is glass, they see a table with rows and rows of small, white candy squares. On one side of each candy a funny little pink face is painted, and a team of Oompa-Loompas is painting more of the pink faces as the group watches. Veruca is disdainful of the candies, for they are obviously square candies that do not look at all like round candies. When Mr. Wonka unlocks the door, however, all of the candies turn their faces quickly toward the door to see who is there. The inventor cries out in triumph that these candies are, indeed, “looking round.”
As they continue their journey, Mr. Wonka and the children slide down the banisters of a long flight of stairs. The two remaining mothers are out of breath and ask their host to slow down. He tells them they will never get there in time if they slow down. He does stop for a moment in front of The Nut Room so that the older women can catch their breath. He warns the children to not go into this room or they will disturb the squirrels. As the group peers in the window, they see a hundred squirrels on a large table piled high with walnuts. Mr. Wonka explains that only squirrels can shell a walnut without breaking it, and he only uses whole walnuts for his candies. The squirrels have even been trained to spot bad nuts. Veruca now demands a trained squirrel (in addition to the dozens of pets she already has). As her demands get louder, her father pulls out his bulging wallet and asks their host to name his price for one of the squirrels. Mr. Wonka tells Mr. Salt they are not for sale. When Veruca hears this, she opens the door and rushes into the room. All activity stops, and both squirrels and girl simply stare at each other for a moment. When Veruca finally reaches for one of the nearby animals, all the squirrels pounce on the girl. They hold her down, and the leader of the squirrels makes his way to her head and begins tapping, checking to see if she is a bad nut. After his examination, the squirrels begin to carry her to the garbage chute, where all the other bad nuts go. When asked, Mr. Wonka explains that this chute leads to the incinerator, where all trash is burned, though he is hopeful today is not an incineration day. Mr. and Mrs. Salt rush to the chute, trying to see their daughter. First one, then the other, is pushed into the chute by the squirrels. From somewhere far away, the group can hear the Oompa-Loompas singing about a very spoiled child and her miserable parents.
Now there are only two children remaining. Mike Teavee complains that his feet are getting tired, so they get into an elevator full of rows and rows of buttons. Mr. Wonka tells the children to press a button so the glass elevator will take them somewhere. Every button will take them to something delicious and wonderful, so it does not matter which they choose. Charlie reads the buttons and sees amazing choices. Mike Teavee complains that there is no Television Room in this factory. Mr. Wonka assures him there is and shows him the button. The boy pushes it, and every one of the visitors ends up on the floor as the elevator moved sideways. Mr. Wonka is holding onto a strap in the ceiling and laughing at their misfortune. Grandpa Joe is able to grab a strap, but Charlie is too short and simply clings to his grandfather’s legs as the elevator car careens through the tunnels. Charlie is able to see more delightful sights along the way, but Mrs. Teavee says she is going to be sick. Mr. Wonka gives her his top hat in case she does and says he hopes no one is using the other elevator because this one will not stop until it arrives at its destination. They squeal to a stop.
Before the passengers enter the room, Mr. Wonka tells them this is a dangerous room and they must not touch anything. The room is so dazzling that they must wear the sunglasses Mr. Wonka hands them. The room is completely bare except for the two ends. At one end is a gigantic camera, and a horde of Oompa-Loompas dressed in red space suits is working on the contraption in complete silence. At the other end, one of the space-suited workers is sitting at a table and staring at a television set. Mr. Wonka explains that his Television Chocolate machine works much like a regular television: a camera takes pictures and the photographs are shattered into millions of pieces and shot into the sky until they find an antenna and slide down into the back of the television set where they miraculously reassemble. Mike Teavee (the boy who watches TV incessantly) says this is not exactly how it works, but Mr. Wonka pretends to be deaf and keeps talking. He explains he is trying to do the same thing with a bar of chocolate. When Mike says he does not believe it, the inventor calls for the workers to bring in the chocolate; they enter carrying a chocolate bar the size of Charlie’s mattress at home. He explains that it must start so big because everything on television starts big and gets smaller by the time it shows up on the television screen. Mr. Wonka gives the signal to flip the switch, and there is a blinding flash. When they can see again, the guests are amazed that the chocolate bar has disappeared. He tells them to rush to the television, and there is the candy bar in the middle of the screen. Mr. Wonka tells Charlie to grab the candy; it does not seem possible, but Charlie does as he is told and soon has a chocolate bar in his hand—which he nearly drops in his surprise. It is delicious, and Grandpa Joe says this will change the world.
Mike Teavee is even more excited about the possibilities and wants to know if the machine will do the same for people. Mr. Wonka is hesitant and fears “some very nasty results,” but that does not stop the determined boy. He pulls the switch and leaps in front of the lens, and then he is gone. Mrs. Teavee is distraught, but all any of them can do is wait. Mr. Wonka hopes that none of him gets left behind, like the half of a chocolate bar that did not come through just last week. Finally Mike Teavee does appear on screen, and he is ecstatic at being the first person ever to be sent through a television. Mrs. Teavee reaches in to get her son, but he is barely an inch tall, small enough to scamper across her palm. When his parents lament that Mike will no longer be able to do anything, Mike is adamant that he can still watch TV. Mr. Teavee insists that there will be no more television watching in their home, and Mike begins to throw a tantrum. His father calmly picks up his son and tucks him into the breast pocket of his jacket, where the tiny boy struggles and squirms to get free. Mr. Wonka says they can place their miniature son in the stretching machine used for gum; however, he may be very, very thin when it is finished. He snaps his fingers crisply again and an Oompa-Loompa appears. Mr. Wonka gives him a note with specific directions on how to proceed with the tiny boy. The Teavees leave to the sound of another mocking song from the Oompa-Loompas; this one is about a boy who could no longer think because he watched too much television.
Only Charlie and his grandfather remain, but Mr. Wonka pretends to have forgotten that fact and asks how many children are left. When Grandpa Joe says there is only one child left, Mr. Wonka smiles and tells Charlie that he was won. He blusters and talks about making plans and fetching people and things to do, and Charlie is rather confused. This time, Mr. Wonka chooses the elevator button and turns to look at Charlie. There is no fear on his face, only excitement and anticipation for whatever is ahead of them. Grandpa Joe’s face reflects the same sentiments, and both guests read the words next to the button their host pushed—“Up And Out.” The elevator picks up speed and Mr. Wonka cheers it on, saying it must go faster and that he has longed to press this button for years. Suddenly the glass elevator car crashes through the roof of the factory and shoots a thousand feet up in the air. Charlie looks through the glass floor and sees his town, tiny below them. Grandpa Joe is worried about falling, but Mr. Wonka causes them to stop in midair and assures him they are being held up by “one million candy power.” They see the other children leaving the factory. Augustus is much thinner for having been sucked through a pipe; Violet is back to her normal size, though her face is still purple; Veruca and her parents are covered with garbage; and Mike is now about ten feet tall and very thin. There are vans loaded with chocolate ready to accompany them to their houses.
Mr. Wonka presses another button and the elevator heads upward once more. As they hover over the town, he tells the two Buckets he loves his factory and asks if Charlie loves it, too. Of course Charlie tells him he thinks it is the most wonderful place in the world. In response, Mr. Wonka tells him he is going to give the entire factory to Charlie as soon as he is old enough to run it. The two visitors are speechless. The factory owner tells them he is old, much older than he looks, and he has no one to leave the factory to when he dies. He does not want to leave it for an adult; he wants a child, someone who will listen and take care of the Oompa-Loompas, who will still find wonder in the marvelous, and in whom he can confide his candy-making secrets. That is why he made the Golden Tickets—to discover the child to whom he would give his chocolate factory. Grandpa Joe and Charlie are still speechless. Mr. Wonka asks where Charlie’s family lives so they can all come live in the factory and help Charlie run it until he is old enough to do so himself.
The elevator is now hovering over the little Bucket house at the edge of town. Charlie and his grandfather are certain it will not happen, as the three old people will never get out of their bed and the bed is too big to get through the door with them in it. Undeterred, Mr. Wonka drops the elevator through the roof of the tiny house, and the family fears the world has come to an end. Finally, Charlie and Grandpa Joe are able to explain everything that has happened and the three of them push the bed and Charlie’s parents into the elevator. As they fly back to the factory, Grandma Josephine says they are all hungry and asks if there will be anything to eat. Charlie laughs and tells her to just wait and see.
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