Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
by Roald Dahl
Chocolate and Other Sweets
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wouldn't be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory without – you guessed it – chocolate. Of course Willy Wonka's chocolate factory makes much more than just chocolate, which is why we're including other sweets in this category as well.
From the book's title alone, we know that chocolate is important – but why? In order to figure that out, let's go back to the beginning, when chocolate first appears in the book. As it turns out, it pops up pretty quickly when, in Chapter 1, we learn that Charlie "desperately wanted something more filling and satisfying than cabbage and cabbage soup. The one thing he longed for more than anything else was…CHOCOLATE." (1.14).
Charlie's a young kid, so you can't blame him for craving something sugary. But he's also a hungry kid, and chocolate will give him that full and satisfied feeling he's looking for. So right off the bat, we know that chocolate – in this story at least – represents something good.
Or does it? Chocolate also brings out the greediness in lots of characters. It's almost like a drug. Augustus Gloop, for one, is clearly addicted to the sweet stuff. Of course Augustus, unlike Charlie, is not looking for nourishment, no matter what his mother says. He's just a chocolate-hog. In fact, Augustus manages to ruin his beloved chocolate for a lot of other people when he drinks from the chocolate river in Chapter 17. The chocolate in Mr. Wonka's factory is pure – it's meant to be "untouched by human hands!" (17.1) It's mixed by waterfall and gathered by glass pipes. But here comes Augustus, and suddenly the chocolate is contaminated. We'll bet that delicious chocolate seemed a little less appetizing to you once you learned that Augustus has a cold. Ick.
Still, you can't deny that chocolate and sweets in the story bring people joy. Charlie savors his chocolate, and it seems to be the only bright spot in his rather dismal life. And anything Charlie likes, we like. So even though chocolate goes through some rough, Gloopy times, at the end, it's something we cherish, something we want, and something Charlie needs.
Is Gum a Way out of a Sticky Situation?
Let's take a moment to talk about another sticky sweet in the story: gum. It's stretchy, changeable, and you can't eat it, so it doesn't fill you up. In that sense, it's quite different from chocolate, and it's no surprise that Charlie would rather chow down on a chocolate bar.
But our miracle worker, Mr. Wonka, has managed to make a gum that fills you up. Imagine what this could do for the Bucket clan. They'd never be hungry. Unfortunately, the gum proves to be faulty, and we learn from the Oompa-Loompas that chewing gum isn't so great after all.
So all in all, it seems like sweets are both good and bad. They give people a chance to be greedy, but they also bring joy. But our hero Charlie knows the real truth: sweets may make you happy for a moment, but family's what's important. And what sweets really do in this book is provide a chance for Charlie to take care of his family. After all, without the chocolate factory, the Bucket clan could very well have gone hungry.