Study Guide

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Setting

By Roald Dahl


England in Winter, Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory

Not Much Bigger than a Bucket

We've got two major settings in this book, and they couldn't be more different. The world outside the factory is a greedy, cold, unfair place. Charlie's family struggles just to get by while families like the Salts can afford to buy whatever they want, whenever they want.

Outdoors, Charlie's town is bleak. The cold wind blows and snow piles up outside the door. The only bright spot on Charlie's daily walk to school is the chocolate factory, where "every day, as [Charlie] came near to it, he would lift his small pointed nose high in the air and sniff the wonderful sweet smell of melting chocolate." (10.9) Though he dreams of going inside, he can only stand outside in the street, and the factory itself seems like another world entirely to poor, cold, and hungry Charlie.

This world isn't much better indoors, either. Charlie's family lives "in a small wooden house on the edge of a great town." (1.7) Not only is the house tiny, it's drafty. Of course in warmer months, this would be fine, but don't forget – it's winter, and "freezing cold drafts blew across the floor all night long, and it was awful." (1.10)

A Fantasy! A Fairyland!

The chocolate factory, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. There are so many awesome descriptions of the various rooms, it's hard to know where to start. But let's take a peek inside the Chocolate Room, which is one of the first stops on the tour: "They were looking down upon a lovely valley. There were green meadows on either side of the valley, and along the bottom of it there flowed a great brown river." (15.3). That sounds pretty spectacular already. But then we read, "What is more, there was a tremendous waterfall halfway along the river – a steep cliff over which the water curled and rolled in a solid sheet, and then went crashing down." (15.4). And the best part? That river and waterfall are made of chocolate. Chocolate.

We've been transported. The factory is even more fantastic than anyone could have possibly imagined. It makes the outside world even more awful than it had already seemed. We, frankly, never want to go back outdoors again. Once we see the other awesome rooms – The Inventing Room, the Nut Room, the Television Room, to name a few – we know Charlie's life will certainly never be the same. How can a kid like Charlie settle for a bleak, cold life when he could live out his days rowing a chocolate river?