by Timothy Lane 9/5/16
This book by Roald Dahl is the source for the Gene Wilder movie, Wiilie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (His father’s job is screwing the caps on toothpaste tubes., and he has to support Charlie’s grandparents as well as himself, his wife, and Charlie.)
As in the movie, the mysterious confectioner Willie Wonka has provided 5 golden tickets in his candy bars, to allow 5 children to visit his chocolate factory — which Charlie passes every day on his way home from school. One by one the tickets are won by bratty children (as Charlie’s family sees them from the coverage) until only one is left. Then Charlie finds a bit of money in the snow, and decides to use some of it to buy a chocolate bar — and then a second one, still leaving most of it for his family. This one includes a golden ticket — and it turns out the tour is to be held the next day.
Accompanied by his Grandpa Joe, Charlie joins the tour. Willie Wonka is a very energetic and whimsical sort, but he does have a lot of rooms in his factory. The work is all done by Oompa-Loompas, whom he rescued from a difficult fate and are willing to work for cacao beans (their favorite food). Wonka takes them to various rooms where he shows them what he’s doing. One by one the children give in to their naughty tendencies, and one by one they pay the price for it )though in the end we learn that all of them will at least survive).
After each of the naughty children receives his or her just deserts, the Oompa-Loompas sing a song noting why the child was wrong and needed to be punished. One was too greedy an eater, even when told not to drink from the chocolate river. One was too eager for gum to wait for a test product to be perfected. One (Veruca Salt) was an extreme spoiled brat, who wanted one of Wonka’s trained squirels and wouldn’t take no for an answer. (“All I’ve got at home is two dogs and four cats and six bunny rabbits and two parakeets and three canaries and a green parrot and a turtle an a bowl of goldfish and a cage of white mice and a silly old hamster.” Another chooses to be broadcast on TV.
One thing a conservative can appreciate is not only that such bratty behavior is punished, but that blame is properly placed on the parents for their failures as well. After all, as the Oompa Loompas point out about Veruca Salt, she didn’t spoil herself
In the end, only Charlie is left, and so he gets the final prize — he will be Wonka’s heir, and his family will be able to move into the factory (a much better place to live) — though in the sequel (which I haven’t read, though the first chapter is included here), this turns out to be easier said than done.
Timothy Lane writes from Louisville, Kentucky and publishes the FOSFAX fanzine.
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