Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Some things never change. In 1964, when Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was first published, the greatest thing imaginable was a gallivanting around a factory devoted entirely to making chocolate and other sweets. And guess what? Over half a century later, that's still the greatest thing imaginable. Don't you agree?
You're probably no stranger to this story about a poor little boy who tours Willy Wonka's famous chocolate factory. It's probably Roald Dahl's most well-known book, but that might just be thanks to the famous 1971 movie version, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Unfortunately, Dahl and the movie did not have a good relationship – he wasn't happy with the casting, the focus on Willy Wonka instead of Charlie, or the many changes made to the script after he wrote it. Dahl passed away in 1990, but we wonder what he would have thought of the 2005 movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's pretty much un-American not to like a Johnny Depp movie. But to be fair, Roald Dahl wasn't American (he was British), so the world will never know.
Roald Dahl may not have liked the movie, but a lot of people didn't like his book either. There were a few unhappy reactions to the original version, mostly because of his portrayal of the Oompa-Loompas. In the final version of his story, these little guys have "rosy-white" skin and "golden-brown" hair (17.53), and come from Loompaland (natch). In the original version, though, they were from Africa, and had never seen a white man before. Dahl didn't intend to be racist – in fact, the Oompa-Loompas are the good guys in the story – but he did understand the criticisms and so, in the end, he made the change.
Of course, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory stands out for reasons other than the movies and the Oompa-Loompas, too. Most importantly, in most of Dahl's work, adults are the bad guys, but in this one, it's the kids who cause the trouble (and boy do they learn their lessons the hard way). Also, all of Dahl's books involve sweets in some way, but this one is a sugar high on paper. As you read, you can almost taste his concoctions, and get this: you can taste his concoctions. The Willy Wonka Candy Company exists. Nerds, anyone?
Why Should I Care?
What do The Karate Kid, the Mighty Ducks, and Charlie Bucket all have in common? We love them? Yes. But more importantly, they're underdogs. Underdogs who come out on top. How many times in your life have you felt like maybe you wouldn't succeed, like you couldn't do it? Charlie reminds us that even when we've hit rock bottom – walking around hungry and cold – there's always hope.
Roald Dahl's Charlie is the David to a million different Goliaths. He's poor, he's hungry, he's small. But he ends up the owner of the greatest chocolate factory in the world, all because of a little luck, the generosity of Willy Wonka, and, most importantly, the fact that he's a great kid. So if you've ever felt like you just couldn't win – if you've been beat by a bully or hit a brick wall – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory just might give you the hope you need to stick it out. Who knows, maybe you'll come out on top.
Oh, and also, it's a book about candy. Clearly that's worth caring about.