Continuing with the celebration of 100 years since Roald Dahl was born, and my Roald Dahl read-a-thon, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is book number 5.
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl is about a young boy called Charlie Bucket who lives with his mother, father and four bedridden grandparents. The Bucket family is very poor, and after Mr Bucket loses his job at the toothpaste factory, the Buckets start to struggle to afford food as winter closes in. Meanwhile, Willy Wonka, the reclusive owner of the town’s chocolate factory, has announced a contest. Five lucky finders of a golden ticket hidden inside a chocolate bar wrapper will win a tour of the chocolate factory which has been closed to the public and a lifetime supply of chocolate. Little Charlie only gets one bar a chocolate a year when it’s his birthday, so what are the chances he will win?
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a classic underdog story about quiet perseverance. Willy Wonka is a cultural icon who will forever be remembered as portrayed by the wonderful Gene Wilder who sadly died this year. This book is fantastically creative and Wonka’s (read: Dahl’s) inventions are wonderfully impossible. Dahl really goes all out on his love of wordplay in this book, and it’s full of songs and poems and funny names for funnier types of candy. One thing that caught my eye, however, was the Oompa Loompas. In the book they’re depicted with rosy white skin and golden hair. This was quite different from my memory of the orange-faced, green-haired dwarves in the 1970s film adaptation, so I did a bit of research. Apparently, the Oompa Loompas were originally pygmies from Africa and were recruited by Wonka as free labour in exchange for chocolate.
Ten years and some significant controversy later, this depiction was considered by the publishers to no longer be suitable, so the Oompa Loompas were changed. Although most of his stories have stood the test in time, it’s always good to remember that writers are real people, products of their time, and don’t always get it right.
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a timeless story about social inequality with a clear moral that being wealthy doesn’t make you a good person, and being successful doesn’t guarantee you’ll raise your kids well. It’s also a wonderful story about how sometimes you have to suspend logic to enjoy magic.