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Transplanted to Miami, FL, from Iowa City, IA. Trying to find a balance between reading, knitting, playing mom taxi, and enjoying the sun and sand in Miami.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Book)

I recently read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I tend to enjoy reading a book before seeing the movie that it is based on. I don't know why I do this, since I am also a firm believer that you have to evaluate the book and the movie separately, on their own merits. I just like to be able to compare the two I suppose.

The book is very short, and a very easy read (as one would expect a children's book to be). It tells the story of an eccentric candy-maker named Willy Wonka and his marvelous factory. The factory had become a very mysterious place in recent years, no one was ever seen going in or out, but the chocolate kept arriving at the stores, ready for sale. One day, Willy Wonka decided to have a contest. He placed 5 golden tickets inside 5 of his candy bars. The lucky children who found the golden tickets would get a tour of the factory, and a lifetime supply of Wonka's candy. One by one the tickets were found, and with every news story Charlie's grandparents would comment on how the child who found the ticket wasn't very deserving. Finally, Charlie, who's family is extremely poor (he only usually gets one chocolate bar a year) finds some money and uses a bit to buy a candy bar, and saves the rest to give his mother for more nutritious food. He opens the candy bar and finds the last golden ticket!

Charlie Bucket was lucky enough to find his ticket only the day before the big factory tour for the winners. Charlie's Grandpa Joe (who hasn't been out of bed in years) decides to accompany him on the tour. They get to the factory and meet the other 4 children: Mike Teavee (who does nothing but watch television), Veruca Salt (who is the poster child for spoiled brats everywhere), Augustus Gloop (a boy who does nothing but eat), and Violet Beauregarde (who does nothing but chew gum).

As the group meets the odd Mr. Wonka and begins their tour through the factory, you definitely get the sense of how amazing a place it is. The factory is like every child's dream with its chocolate rivers and amazing sites and smells and tastes everywhere you look and in every room. One by one the children fall prey to their greatest weakness. The first being Augustus Gloop who decided to drink out of the Chocolate river, and of course falls in. As each child is whisked away to be returned to as normal as possible (although hopefully having learned a lesson in the process), the oompa loompas sing a song. The songs are very dark, for example:
Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop!
The great big greedy nincompoop!
How long could we allow this beast
To gorge and guzzle, feed and feast
On everything he wanted to?
Great Scott! It simply wouldn't do!
However long this pig might live,
We're positive he'd never give
Even the smallest bit of fun
Or happiness to anyone.
So, what we do in cases such
As this, we use the gentle touch,
And carefully we take the brat
And turn him into something that
Will give great pleasure to us all-
A doll, for instance, or a ball,
Or marbles or a rocking horse.
But this revolting boy, of course,
Was so unutterably vile,
So greedy, foul, and infantile,
He left a most disgusting taste
Inside our mouths, and so in haste
We chose a thing that, come what may,
Would take the nasty taste away.
'Come on!' we cried, 'The time is ripe
To send him shooting up the pipe!
He has to go! It has to be!'
And very soon, he's going to see
Inside the room to which he's gone
Some funny things are going on.
But don't, dear children, be alarmed;
Augustus Gloop will not be harmed,
Although, of course, we must admit
He will be
altered quite a bit.
He'll be
quite changed from what he's been,
When he goes through the fudge machine;
Slowly, the wheels go round and round,
The cogs begin to grind and pound;
A hundred knives to slice, slice slice;
We add some sugar, cream, and spice;
We boil him for a minute more,
Until we're absolutely sure
That all the greed and all the gall
Is boiled away for once and all.
Then out he comes! And now! By grace!
A miracle has taken place!
This boy, who only just before
Was loathed by men from shore to shore,
This greedy brute, this louse's ear,
Is loved by people everywhere!
For who could hate or bear a grudge
Against a luscious bit of fudge?

As I said, very dark. I am somewhat surprised how dark children's books are sometimes. I would definitely say this book is a precursor to A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Anyhow, each of the children fall prey to a weakness until only Charlie Bucket is left. And then, Charlie is shocked to discover that the real reason for the Golden Ticket contest was to find a successor for Willy Wonka. He wanted a child that he could teach his secrets to, who would one day run the factory the way Mr. Wonka has run it. So, Charlie, Grandpa Joe and Willy Wonka get into the glass elevator to go and tell the rest of Charlie's family the good news, that from now on they will all live at the Chocolate Factory. And, the other children do come out all right at the end, more or less, hopefully with lessons learned. (For both the children and their parents).

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is very witty, very dark, and thoroughly enjoyable. It definitely has its moral of how children should behave, and expresses that what goes around comes around. I think it is a valuable book for children to read, and I will definitely be introducing it to my boys when they are old enough to read it.

I hope to write comparing the book to both of the movie versions at a later date.
I am also still reading the sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, and will write a summary of that when I'm finished.