Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

by Roald Dahl

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Where is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set?

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The story opens in Charlie Bucket's house, which is described as "a small wooden house on the edge of a great town." Dahl says that it wasn't large enough for all seven people who lived there; there were two rooms and one bed. All four of Charlie's grandparents share the bed.

The house is comfortable in the summer but freezing in the winter. They're too poor to afford better lodgings because Charlie's father is the only one who works and he has to support seven people on his low-paid job as a toothpaste cap-screwer.

Charlie walks through his unnamed town every day fantasizing about chocolate. He stops at the chocolate shop to look at what they have to offer, though he can't afford it. It's there that he eventually buys the chocolate bar with the golden ticket. 

The primary setting in the novel is Wonka's Chocolate Factory. It's protected with large iron gates and a wall. From the outside, can hear strange whizzing sounds, see smoke rising from the chimneys, and smell chocolate from half a mile away. Charlie's family claims that it's the largest one in the world; they say it's fifty times as big as any other chocolate factory. 

When Charlie wins the contest and is allowed to go inside, he finds that the factory is a bizarre and exciting place—but also dangerous. There's a chocolate river; there's a room where everything is edible and chocolate is mixed by a waterfall. The factory has a mountain made of fudge, a lake of hot caramel, and a village of Oompa-Loompas. There's also a room that houses Television Chocolate where the chocolate "works by television" according to Willy Wonka. When a young boy tries to go into the television—which works as a transporter—he is shrunk down small enough to fit in his father's pocket.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has two main settings. The beginning of the story takes place mostly in Charlie's home. He shares a tiny, one-bedroom house with his two sets of grandparents. Charlie's home is marked by poverty and lack. There's no heater in the home, and rarely any food to eat. Charlie's grandparents are frail from lack of nutrition, his grandmother lacking the strength even to rise from bed and walk. A feeling of sadness broods over the home. But Charlie's kind and sensitive spirit also pervades the house, uplifting its residents and protecting them from total despair. So, when Charlie comes home from school every day, his grandparents perk up. They ask him about his day. They move around a little, and become interested in living. The house seems just a bit brighter. Charlie's presence brings vitality into the home; it becomes a setting of hope and possibility.

As the story progresses, the setting changes from Charlie's house to Willie Wonka's chocolate factory. Wonka's factory is almost the exact opposite of Charlies's house. Whereas Charlie's house is drab and suffocating, Wonka's factory shimmers brightly and defies normal hugeness. The factory is a place of excess, with chocolate rivers flowing about and sugary treats at every turn. It causes sensory overload. Appetites can never be sated because there's too much available. In Willie Wonka's chocolate factory, Charlie is able to unburden himself of the obligations of taking care of others. He can experience his surroundings carefree. Yet even though the chocolate factory is a setting full of temptations, Charlie's basic goodness shines through. 

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