Form and Content
Framed in the voice of a narrator retelling a story that he has overheard, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang is a three-part, primarily third-person adventure narrative built around an eccentric family and their magical car. The warmth and color of the text is supported by illustrator John Birmingham’s drawings and paintings, both small and full-page, which enliven the reading experience. Much of the book’s tone is built on Ian Fleming’s use of onomatopoeia and his chatty, rambling, and informal style. His lively, descriptive language prevents any details of scientific solemnity from distracting from his primary purpose—to entertain children.
In the first part of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, the Pott family is introduced. Having a lineage going back to the Romans, the Potts live beside a lake near a turnpike outside Canterbury, England. Jeremy and Jemima are eight-year-old twins living with their mother, Mimsie, and their father, Commander Caractacus Pott, a humorous, dreamy, unsuccessful explorer and inventor known in the neighborhood as “Crackpot Pott.” They are poor, without money to buy a car, but happy.
The unconventional Commander invents “Crackpot’s Whistling Sweets,” a combination toy and candy that he sells to a candy maker, Lord Scrumptious, for one thousand pounds. This money allows the family to buy an extraordinary automobile. They discover an old wreck on its way to the junkyard, a car that was clearly once so special that the entire family falls in love with it. Its magical properties are first indicated by the license plate, “GENI.” The Commander repairs the automobile and hears its characteristic startup noises of “chitty chitty bang bang,” which becomes the car’s name. The special car can go up to one hundred miles an hour, but the Commander worries when he finds that the car has made improvements on its own at night; it now has rows of knobs that he cannot explain. On the way to a picnic, they get bogged down in slow traffic. The car shows irritation and gives the Commander instructions on the mysterious knobs. The Commander does as the car asks, and Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang suddenly grows wings and flies over the other cars.
In part 2, the adventures begin as the Potts land on a sandbar in the English Channel. After...
(The entire section is 570 words.)