Hello there, Wanderers, and welcome once again to an instalment of your now incredibly familiar GUST articles. For those of you who might be new to Fandom Wanderers, a brief summary. In GUST articles, we look at media that is traditionally considered to be primarily for a younger audience, and see the merits in it for an older audience as well. Now, there is one writer that seems to have seeped into many people’s collective childhoods, and I think it’s only fair we take a look at another one of his works. This time, by author Roald Dahl, we’ll be looking at the infamous Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Yes, infamous really is the word to describe this book, probably being the most well known of all Dahl’s stories for children. It’s been adapted twice for the screen; and most recently for the stage in London’s West End where, by all reports, it is delighting audiences much in the same way it’s compatriot Matilda continues to do. The story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is as follows: we follow our young lead, Charlie Bucket, who is very poor indeed. So poor, in fact, that his family cannot afford proper meals. To make matters worse, Charlie and his family live within breathing distance of the marvellous chocolate factory belonging to confectionery genius, Willy Wonka.
No one has been allowed into the factory in years, but then it is announced that Wonka will allow the holders of five lucky golden tickets – to be found in only five of the hundreds upon hundreds of products he produces – into the factory. There is a mad scramble to get the tickets, and the first four are found by children of varying levels of unpleasantness. The last ticket, found the day before the tour, is Charlie’s. The tour is sure to be something wonderful, indeed.
It’s a sort of Cinderella story, in a way, I suppose it could be said. The idea of the rags getting a chance at the riches, even if only for the shortest period of time. Charlie Bucket is a paragon of virtue. He is the most angelic of children, and we cannot help but feel sympathy for his sorry lot in life. Not that Charlie seems to mind all that much, he’s relatively content, and does his best to keep himself that way.
And no, I’m really not joking when I say he’s angelic. Honestly, this boy never does anything wrong – he even tries to share the one bar of chocolate he gets every year with his whole family, because he thinks it’s only fair to do so. The other children may be varied in their unpleasantness, but personally? It’s that unpleasantness that makes them slightly more memorable than our lead. Not that Charlie isn’t memorable but …. yeah…
Best character in the book is Willy Wonka. He’s an eccentric genius who has isolated himself for many years. Well, isolated in the sense that he dropped out of public view. He’s a schemer, and he always has plans. The whole ‘golden ticket’ promotion is a plan in and of itself, but probably not for the obvious reason one would think of boosting sales – though he’s probably a bit pleased with that side effect. He is fantastic though.
The films themselves… well, you either like them, or you don’t. That’s pretty much as simple as it can be said. Gene Wilder’s Wonka is more mysterious, while Johnny Depp’s really plays up the eccentricities of the character. Of course, the first movie was also part musical, and gave us some fantastic numbers, particularly Pure Imagination, which is the eleven o’clock number in the musical, and judging by the soundtrack is is absolutely beautiful.
Overall, the book is a lovely little story, with Dahl’s usual likes and dislikes showing through. Like many of his work for children, while it is overall innocent, upon re-reading as an adult you will discover some elements that do seem a bit darker to an older eye. That being said, it is very much worth a re-read.
Z McAspurren (still likes Matilda best :P)