Saturday, June 24, 2006

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Roald Dahl
Fiction, Fantasy, Children's

Most grown-ups are familiar with this tale of Charlie Bucket, who lives in a shack with his parents and four grandparents, and who for his birthday gets one bar of delicious Wonka chocolate. And they know how five children - only five - get the opportunity to take a tour inside Wonka's factory, which resides in Charlie's own town. And they know how Charlie, poor, starving, shivering Charlie, finds a dollar in the snow and buys himself two candy bars, the second of which holds the last of the Golden Tickets.

What they may have missed as children is the essential sense of fair play that permeates the book. The "fat shopkeeper" who sells Charlie the candy bars and shouts out when Charlie finds the ticket protects him from the curious and mercenary and tells him "I think you needed this break." (As Charlie is chronically starving at this point, it's obvious, but give the shopkeeper points for sympathy and good sense.) There's overheard comments from the crowd that indicate that people realize how hard a life Charlie is leading, and even Wonka himself - with suspicious deafness only when asked annoying questions - treats Charlie with kindness. And, of course, the greedy children get picked off in manners of poetic justice, leaving us with thoughtful Charlie and his joyful Grandpa Joe.

This is a book where the righteous get what they deserve, and the scheming and greedy and disobedient get their comeuppance, never fatal but always hilarious. And where you can truly believe in a chocolate factory run by two-foot-tall happy, singing, Oompa Loompas.


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