Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
by Roald Dahl
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
Third Person (Limited Omniscient), Second Person, and a bit of First Person
Charlie's our hero, but he's not our narrator. Our narrator is someone else entirely, who has the ability to know and see a lot of things our Charlie couldn't, like in Chapter 10, when Grandpa Joe worries about Charlie to his wife (10.10). But what really matters here is that even though our narrator is a stranger, we get to dip into Charlie's head. A lot.
There's another passage in Chapter 10 that's worth checking out. It's a moment when we get to experience the world through Charlie:
Part of it was buried under the snow, but he saw at once what it was.
It was a fifty-pence piece!
Quickly he looked around him.
Had somebody just dropped it?
No—that was impossible because of the way part of it was buried. (10.16-20).
Think about it. We're right inside Charlie's head. Who else could be thinking, "Had somebody just dropped it?" but Charlie? (This is called free indirect speech, in case someone ever asks at a dinner party.)
So there you have it: we've got a third person narrator, who's focused mainly on Charlie's thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Not so fast.
Take a look at these lines:
This is Charlie.
How d'you do? And how d'you do? And how d'you do again? He's pleased to meet you. (1.5-6)
Well this is interesting. The narrator seems to be talking directly to us here, which means our narrative point of view is actually second person.
Then, a few paragraphs later, things get even more complicated: "But I haven't told you about the one awful thing that tortured little Charlie, the lover of chocolate, more than anything else." (1.17). Suddenly, we have an "I," which makes it a first person narration.
Geez, Dahl, you sure don't make things easy on us. But let's think of it this way. Dahl is a playful, creative writer. He wants us to have fun, and the occasional "you" and the occasional "I" make the book friendlier, more conversational. We're invited right into the story, and we're definitely RSVPing. (For more on this, see "Writing Style.")