Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Written by: Roald Dahl
Central Theme: Good is always rewarded
Synopsis: Charlie, a poor but nice boy, earns a ticket to visit the titular chocolate factory owned by the mysterious Willy Wonka, along with other four more unpleasant kids. As the other kids are disposed in bizarre but fitting ways, it becomes obvious that Mr. Wonka has different plans for his tour than what he initially slipped.
Genre(s): Fantasy
First published: January 17, 1964
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Perhaps Roald Dahl's best known work, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has twice been filmed. (They're here and here.)

In the book, Charlie is an angelic boy who lives with his parents and grandparents in a small hovel. When Willy Wonka, a reclusive businessman, announces a competition to allow five lucky children into his chocolate factory, Charlie wins one of the places against high odds.

The other four children turn out to be deeply unpleasant: Augustus Gloop is a glutton, Veruca Salt is a Spoiled Brat, Mike Teavee is obsessed with TV and Violet Beauregarde is a rude, pushy compulsive gum-chewer. Willy Wonka himself proves to be an eccentric inventor, obsessed with confectionery.

The five children tour the factory, a wonderland of bizarre and improbable inventions, but one by one the children suffer almost lethal karmic fates, each underscored by a moralising Crowd Song from Wonka's Oompa-Loompas. When only Charlie is left, Wonka reveals he was actually looking for an heir.

There is a sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, in which the elevator shoots into space, Wonka stops an invasion by shapeshifting aliens, and the grandparents get into trouble with a de-aging potion. Unfortunately, Dahl was so disgusted at how the film of the first book turned out that he forbade any adaptations of the sequel.

This story, particularly the 1971 movie version, has become a stock parody; see Charlie and the Chocolate Parody.

Tropes used in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory include:
  • Adaptation Overdosed: In addition to the two films, there's a stage play that's extremely faithful to the book, and a stage musical that uses the 1971 film's songs but is a closer match to the book plotwise (creating another, sort of hybrid, continuity). There is also an opera version produced in 2010, entitled The Golden Ticket. A Prequel film exploring the youth of Wonka is in production as of mid-2020.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Charlie.
  • Advertised Extra: Once Charlie arrives at the factory, he does nothing and, therefore, wins the factory. Granted, he spends the first third of the book starving to death while being a really good kid. By the time he gets to the factory, he's got nothing to prove to the readers.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The titular factory.
  • All Take and No Give: Veruca to her dad.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Many would find the bit about Wonka closing down due to industrial espionage to be over the top. Many would also be surprised to learn what a cutthroat industry candymaking really is.
  • Animal Motifs: Pigs for Augustus, in all versions. His character description in the book is "a fat pig who would eat anything within reach or bite." Promotional material for the 2005 film showed pigs around him, as well. His family also runs a butchery in the 2005 film, driving the point home further with large sacks of meat hanging around him.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The kids' major character flaws: being greedy, being spoiled, being obsessed with TV and... chewing gum? What the hell?
    • A more reasonable flaw would be being ill-mannered and (in the original book and original movie) dim-witted or (in the 2005 remake) hyper-competitive.
    • A cut chapter from the book involves another contestant named Miranda Piker, whose crime is being a teacher's pet and having a headmaster for a father. She is eliminated when she and her father decide they want to put a stop to the making of a candy that will allow students to fake sick. Dahl cut this subplot after he realized that there were too many characters.
  • Asshole Victim: All of the kids, minus Charlie although they survive.
  • Author Filibuster: The Oompa Loompa songs, especially the one concerning TV. Doubles as Anvilicious.
  • Author Tract: The ironic fates of nearly all the kids, and in particular the Mike Teevee speech.
  • Bowdlerise: The description of the Oompa-Loompas was altered to make the general concept less overtly racist.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Mr. Wonka and the Oompa-Loompas.
  • Competition Coupon Madness: The Golden tickets.
  • Death by Adaptation: Mr. Bucket in the 1971 Film.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: The bratty kids, but especially Veruca.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The factory.
  • Everything's Better with Chocolate: Pretty self-explanatory.
  • Extreme Doormat: The bratty kids' parents.
  • Five-Man Band
  • Happily Ever After
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Butterscotch and Buttergin. (The former used to make "butterscotch and soda", the latter for "buttergin and tonic".) Uh-huh, Wonka has at least one product that isn't for kids. Even worse, the Oopa Loompas seem a little too fond of both.
  • Happily Married: Charlie's parents (except for the 1971 film) and both sets of his grandparents. The fact that he has a loving family makes him contrast with the bratty, dysfunctional rich kids even more.
  • Happiness in Slavery: The Oompa Loompas work and live in Wonka's factory for beans, and are apparently thrilled with the arrangement. This could also have something to do with the value of the beans in their native culture where they are extremely scarce. To put it in perspective: imagine being paid in personal love slave services, recreational drugs, video games or your favourite vice.
    • Another part of the reason why they may be so happy working for Wonka is because, while they do now have to work for their cocoa beans, they are also allowed to live in comfortable housings in the factory, which is a fairly safe working environment. Back in Loompaland, they lived in rickety treehouses, survived primarily on mashed caterpillars, and spent their lives trying to hide from the variety of terrible monsters that also lived in Loompaland and which would devour Oompa-Loompas by the dozens if they could. Having to make chocolate in a strange land isn't much sacrifice when you didn't like your homeland in the first place and it means you don't have to worry about being eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a between-meals snack.
      • And, uh, there is the fact that he uses them for testing the side effects of his confectionary, sometimes with (it's implied) FATAL results.
  • Harsh Life Revelation Aesop:
      • As Grandpa Joe narrates, there are some chocolatiers like Mr. Wonka who care more about the wonder of making sweets and feeding people. Then there are others like Slugworth, Prodnose and Ficklegruber, who only care about making money by any means possible. They actually do drive Mr. Wonka briefly out of business by stealing his recipes, and put thousands of good employees out of a job. While Mr. Wonka does reopen, he is much more cynical, hiring Oompa-Loompas and keeping them in the factory while swearing all of the kids to secrecy. Business can corrupt the most ideal person.
      • Money makes a difference. When the Golden Ticket contest starts, Charlie muses it would be nice to win one and visit Mr. Wonka's factory. Out of all the adults, Grandpa George is the most cynical. He says that the kids most likely to win are the ones who can buy candy bars every day. The Buckets can only afford to give Charlie one bar of chocolate a year, which Charlie makes sure to last for a month. Sure enough, all the other kids who get a ticket are fairly wealthy or competitive, able to buy at least a few bars a day, and adults also get in on the search. While Grandpa Joe gives Charlie a dime he stored for emergencies to give him another chance, it takes a literal miracle for Charlie to get the last Golden Ticket. The stage versions in West End and Broadway outright imply if not show that Mr. Wonka manufactures circumstances to get the ticket in Charlie's hands.
  • Hollow-Sounding Head: Veruca. Unusually it is an actual plot point rather than just a brief gag.
  • Hollywood Atlas
  • Hollywood Dress Code: Veruca is specifically mentioned to have a mink coat. This marked her as a Rich Bitch even before wearing fur was wrong.
  • The Hyena: The Oompa-Loompas. They laugh at everything.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The Square Candies That Look Round; they're square, but if you enter their room they'll look 'round to see who's there. The buildup to this joke takes up several pages.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: Willy Wonka.
  • Infinite Supplies
  • Ironic Hell: The bratty kids' punishments.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: Virtually all of the processes in Wonka's factory: "If television breaks an image down into little bits and sends them through the air, why not a bar of chocolate?"
    • Debatable, given that Wonka's nonsense explanations are usually for the benefit of the candidate children, most of whom he doesn't trust at all.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Willy Wonka.
  • Karma Houdini: What exactly did Veruca Salt get compared to the other kids? The scare of her life, and very dirty, but compared to the fate of the others (Slimmed down, stretched out, turned purple) she really didn't get what she deserved to be easily the worst of the kids, just something a bath would fix.
    • In her case, it was really more her parents that needed to learn a lesson about spoiling her so much. The 2005 film particularly makes it clear that she's not going to get her way so easily anymore.

Veruca: (sees Willy Wonka, Grandpa Joe, and Charlie riding in the glass elevator above them as she and her father walk out of the factory covered in garbage) Daddy, I want a glass elevator.
Mr. Salt: The only thing you're getting today is a bath. And that's final.
Veruca: (angrily) But I want it!

    • Of course, you could call Willy Wonka the biggest Karma Houdini.
  • Karmic Death: Sort of. While Wonka claims none of the children die, each one (except Charlie) is taken out in this manner.
    • The end of the book shows the naughty kids walking out of the factory, albeit considerably changed based on their punishments.
  • Level Ate: The room with the chocolate waterfall.
  • Mad Scientist: Willy Wonka.
  • Meaningful Name: Mike Teavee. Can you get anymore obvious than that?
  • Million-to-One Chance
  • Mythology Gag:
  • No OSHA Compliance: The factory itself is riddled with unbelievably dangerous areas, from a chocolate river with no safety rail (that leads to a grinding machine via pipes), a gaping hole in the middle of the nut sorting room that leads straight to a furnace and a glass elevator that smashes through the roof (to name a few).
  • Not Drawn to Scale: Admittedly, it could also be Bizarrchitecture.
  • Older Sidekick: Grandpa Joe.
  • Paper People: Mike Teavee
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Willy Wonka can make an entire meal come out of gum, an ice cream that stays cold and doesn't melt in the sun, build a chocolate palace without a metal framework, can teleport things into TV screens, and has anti-gravity technology - yet he only applies his know-how to candy.
    • Lampshaded by Mike Teavee in the 2005 film. Then again, considering what happened to Mike, can anyone blame Wonka for having no desire to apply his teleporting technology to people?
  • Rich Bitch: Veruca Salt.
  • Serious Business: The pursuit of the Golden Tickets.
  • Singing Is a Free Action: Everything stops for the Oompa-Loompas to sing the moral, even when Veruca falls down a chute that leads to the incinerator.
    • It's only lit every OTHER day. They've got time. (And if she's cooked... well, nothing to be done and they STILL have time.)
    • Also, she could just be stuck in the chute, so they've got time in that case as well.
  • Spoiled Brat: All of the naughty kids. Augustus' parents feed him pounds of chocolate, Violet's parents indulge all her obnoxious habits, Veruca's parents get her anything she wants, and Mike Teevee's parents actually encourage his television watching because it means they won't have to babysit him.
  • Transformation Ray: The TV ray that zaps Mike.
  • Trickster Mentor: Willy Wonka.
  • The Wonka: Trope Namers: a eccentric and successful business owner.
  • Victimized Bystander: The other children who fell victim to events in the factory survived, but with "reminders" of their misbehavior. Augustus is thin as a rail from being squeezed through the pipes, Violet is purple, Veruca is covered in garbage, and Mike is a 10-foot giant (the end result of being put through a taffy puller to de-shrink him).
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Depending on the Alternative Character Interpretation, Willy Wonka.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: The Oompa-Loompas sing one for each of the kids except Charlie, although they don't really count as villains.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: The Oompa-Loompas highly value the cocoa bean, something Willy Wonka happens to have plenty of.