Our story starts out with an introduction of the main characters: Charlie Bucket's family. Charlie, his parents, and his four grandparents all live together in a small house. They're poor, hungry, cold, and pretty much in dire straits. The one thing that brightens Charlie's life is the chocolate factory, owned by Willy Wonka, that's right in the neighborhood. That, and the one chocolate bar a year he gets on his birthday.
Grandpa Joe seems to know a lot about Wonka's factory and he tells Charlie a bunch of stories: about a chocolate palace Mr. Wonka built, and about how he had to close his factory down because of spies stealing his recipes. During one of these stories, Charlie's dad comes in with the news that Mr. Wonka will be opening up his factory to five lucky children who can find Golden Tickets in Wonka chocolate bars. Contest!
On his birthday, Charlie's whole family hopes that his chocolate bar will contain a Golden ticket, and guess what? It doesn't. (Did we trick you?) Grandpa Joe even gives him some saved-up money to buy one more. Still nothing. One day, while Charlie is walking home from school, hungry and cold, he finds some money on the ground and uses it to buy chocolate. And sure enough, without even expecting it, he finds his golden ticket.
Charlie and his Grandpa Joe go to the factory on the day of the tour and boy is it marvelous. There's a room made entirely of edible things (with a chocolate river), and little people called Oompa-Loompas who run the factory. And that's only the beginning! One by one, the other four children on the tour cause some major trouble and are carried away. Augustus Gloop falls into the chocolate river while trying to drink from it, Violet Beauregarde eats some magic gum that turns her into a blueberry, Veruca Salt tries to steal a worker squirrel and ends up down a garbage chute, and Mike Teavee is shrunken down when he tries to send himself through television.
Charlie is the only child who doesn't cause trouble, and Willy Wonka tells him he won. Wait, what did he win? The whole stinkin' factory. Mr. Wonka wants someone to take over for him when he gets old and he chooses Charlie. That's right, the whole factory is his! They shoot through the roof on the glass elevator, go get Charlie's family, and bring them back to the factory, where they'll never go hungry again.