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 impossibility of his hopes when he hears reclusive chocolatier Willy Wonka’s announcement that he has placed five golden tickets in bars of chocolate around the world. These tickets will admit the bearer to a tour of Wonka’s famous candy factory, after which each lucky person will be given a lifetime supply of chocolate.
One by one the golden tickets are found by children whose moral failings are palpably obvious to even the youngest readers. Twice Charlie is given a bar of chocolate as a gift, but neither is a winner. Just as all appears to be lost, he finds some money under a storm grate and uses it to buy a bar of chocolate that contains the final golden ticket.
On the appointed day, Charlie and Grandpa Joe join the other four children and their parents at the steps of the Wonka chocolate factory, where they are admitted for the first time to a wonderland of magical confections. One by one, the other four children fall victim to traps laid by their own vices. The gluttonous Augustus Gloop tries to drink from a river of chocolate, only to fall in and be sucked up by an intake piped directly to the fudge-cooking room. Obsessive gum-chewer Violet Beauregarde chews an experimental meal in a stick of gum and is turned into a giant human blueberry. Spoiled rich kid Veruca Salt tries to seize one of Wonka’s nut-sorting squirrels for her own and is dropped down an incinerator chute, although that incinerator was fortunately shut down for maintenance, and she will find not an inferno but a three-day accumulation of garbage to cushion her fall. Obsessive television watcher Mike Teavee tries to teleport himself by Wonka’s chocolate-transporting television system and is reduced to a midget only a few inches high.
With the bad children removed, Charlie’s virtue becomes obvious and Wonka announces that Charlie has won the biggest prize of all. He will become Wonka’s heir and student, and all of his family are invited to move into the chocolate factory with him. In a moment of triumph, Wonka leads Charlie and Grandpa Joe into the Great Glass Elevator, which proves capable not only of moving in every direction within the chocolate factory but also can fly.
Dahl has said that his only purpose in writing books for children is to entertain and foster a love of reading. The book's slap-stick humor, fantastic setting, and exaggerated characters appeal to the tastes of young readers. It has an original and fast-paced...
(The entire section is 6,272 words.)