Mona Lisa and I agreed to read a book published in each year of our lives and share our thoughts of it on our blog. So there she is, reading her thick Charlie Chaplin biography in the three weeks we have given ourselves to complete the book. I hope she has finished this book because I’m curious of what she thinks of it.
Roald Dahl (13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990)
Born in Wales to Norwegian parents, Roald Dahl served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, in which he became a flying ace and intelligence officer, rising to the rank of Acting wing commander. He rose to prominence in the 1940s with works for both children and adults and became one of the world’s best-selling authors. He has been referred to as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”. Dahl’s short stories are known for their unexpected endings and his children’s books for their unsentimental, often very dark humour. His works include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, My Uncle Oswald, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Twits, Tales of the Unexpected, George’s Marvellous Medicine, and The BFG.
Charlie Bucket, the unsuspecting hero of the book, defies all odds in claiming the fifth and final ticket. A poor but virtuous boy, Charlie lives in a tiny house with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bucket, and all four of his grandparents. His grandparents share the only bed in the house, located in the only bedroom, and Charlie and his parents sleep on mattresses on the floor. Charlie gets three sparse meals a day, which is hardly enough to nourish a growing boy, As a result, he is almost sickly thin. Once a year, on his birthday, Charlie gets one bar of Wonka chocolate, which he savours over many months. The Bucket family’s circumstances become all the more dire when Mr. Bucket loses his job. But a tremendous stroke of luck befalls Charlie when he spots a raggedy dollar bill buried in the snow. He decides to use a little of the money to buy himself some chocolate before turning the rest over to his mother. After inhaling the first bar of chocolate, Charlie decides to buy just one more and within the wrapping finds the fifth golden ticket. He is not a moment too soon: the next day is the date Mr. Wonka has set for his guests to enter the factory.
Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Bucket can accompany Charlie to the factory. Mr. Bucket must search for work to put food on the table and Mrs. Bucket must care for the invalided grandparents. Magically, Charlie’s oldest and most beloved grandparent, Grandpa Joe, springs out of bed for the first time in decades. Charlie’s lucky find has transformed him into an energetic and almost childlike being. Grandpa Joe and Charlie set out on their adventure.
In the factory, Charlie and Grandpa Joe marvel at the unbelievable sights, sounds, and especially smells of the factory. Whereas they are grateful toward and respectful of Mr. Wonka and his factory, the other four children succumb to their own character flaws. Accordingly, they are ejected from the factory in mysterious and painful fashions. Augustus Gloop falls into the hot chocolate river—while attempting to drink it—and is sucked up by one of the many pipes. Veruca Salt is determined to be a “bad nut” by nut-judging squirrels who throw her out with the trash. Violet Beauregarde impetuously grabs an experimental piece of gum and chews herself into a giant blueberry. She is consequently removed from the factory. With the hope of being on his beloved television, Mike Teavee shrinks himself, and his father has to carry him out in his breast pocket. During each child’s fiasco, Mr. Wonka alienates the parents with his nonchalant reaction to the child’s seeming demise. He remains steadfast in his belief that everything will work out in the end.
After each child’s trial, the Oompa-Loompas beat drums and sing a moralizing song about the downfalls of greedy, spoiled children. When only Charlie remains, Willy Wonka turns to him and congratulates him for winning. The entire day has been another contest, the prize for which is the entire chocolate factory, which Charlie has just won. Charlie, Grandpa Joe, and Mr. Wonka enter the great glass elevator, which explodes through the roof of the factory and crashes down through the roof of Charlie’s house, where they collect the rest of the Bucket family.
As in almost all children’s stories the children certainly didn’t make a clean getaway. One is a bit stretched, the other is quite shrunk and a third has become blue. But Dahl actually had something much more horrible in mind for the spoiled, lazy or greedy children, according to a never released chapter, “The Vanilla Fudge Room ‘. The British newspaper The Guardian published some of it:
Don’t say I didn’t warn them,” Mr Wonka declared. “Your children are not particularly obedient, are they?”
“But where has it gone?” Both mothers cried at the same time.
“What’s through that hole?”
“That hole,” said Mr Wonka, “leads directly to what we call The Pounding And Cutting Room. In there, the rough fudge gets tipped out of the wagons into the mouth of a huge machine. The machine then pounds it against the floor until it is all nice and smooth and thin. After that, a whole lot of knives come down and go chop chop chop, cutting it up into neat little squares, ready for the shops.”
“How dare you!” screamed Mrs Rice. “I refuse to allow our Wilbur to be cut up into neat little squares.”
Weather or not the children were chopped to pieces is not quite clear. One of the Oempaloempa’s suggests in the following verse they did:
“Eight little children – such charming little chicks. But two of them said “Nuts to you,’ and then there were six.”
Dahl didn’t publish it after all, because he thought it would be “to wild, disturbing and unsuitable for the little minds of young British children”.
Even as an adult, even after so many years it is very understandable that this book is still one of the best selling children’s books. I had never read the book before, just seen the movie about a hundred times, but the book has so many things I missed or forgotten. The toothpaste factory that closes down. Reading Mike TV as Mike Teavee is so funny. The story has a wonderful moral, and like a proper Calvinist Dutchman, I love a good moral in the story.