The bed was given to the four old grandparents because they were so old and tired. They were so tired, they never got out of it. (1.8)
It makes sense that grandparents would be old, but why exactly are these ones so tired? Does being old always mean being tired?
Every one of these old people was over ninety. They were as shriveled as prunes, and as bony as skeletons, and throughout the day, until Charlie made his appearance, they lay huddled in their one bed, two at either end, with nightcaps on to keep their heads warm, dozing the time away with nothing to do. (2.2)
Dahl certainly doesn't make growing old sound like any fun at all.
Like all extremely old people, he was delicate and weak, and throughout the day he spoke very little. But in the evenings, when Charlie, his beloved grandson, was in the room, he seemed in some marvelous way to grow quite young again. All his tiredness fell away from him and he became as eager and excited as a young boy. (2.15)
Maybe the grandparents act so old and tired because they spend all day around other old and tired people. If Charlie were around more, they might all start acting as young as Grandpa Joe does, when Charlie wins the Golden Ticket.
"Do <em>all </em>children behave like this nowadays – like these brats we've been hearing about?" "Of course not," said Mr. Bucket, smiling at the old lady in the bed. "Some do, of course. In fact, quite a lot of them do. But not <em>all</em>." (8.18)
We've noticed – and maybe you have, too – that when it comes to children, most of the older people in this book are not fans. Except for Charlie, whom all the adults seem to love dearly.
"That child," said Grandpa Joe, poking his head up from under the blanket one icy morning, "that child has <em>got</em> to have more food. It doesn't matter about us. We're too old to bother with. But a <em>growing boy</em>! He can't go on like this!" (10.10)
Grandpa Joe seems to think that taking care of the young is more important than taking care of the old. What do you think: is it too late for them?
And now, very calmly, with that curious wisdom that seems to come so often to small children in time of hardship, he began to make little changes here and there in some of the things he did, so as to save his strength. (10.15)
Curious indeed. Here, Charlie behaves more like an adult: he's calm, cool, and collected while facing some tough times. But Dahl is quick to point out that he's a small child; and that fact is actually what helps him survive.
"I certainly can't go myself and leave the other three old people all alone in bed for a whole day." (12.31)
These grandparents sure do seem pretty helpless. After all, they can't go a day without being taken care of by Mrs. Bucket. How come the other three grandparents can't be as peppy as Grandpa Joe?
"Mind you, there are thousands of clever men who would give anything for the chance to come in and take over from me, but I don't want that sort of person. I don't want a grown-up person at all. A grown-up won't listen to me; he won't learn. He will try to do things his own way and not mine. So I have to have a child. I want a good sensible loving child, one to whom I can tell all my most precious sweet-making secrets – while I am still alive." (30.10)
Willy Wonka gets it: kids are awesome. Adults are stubborn and set in their ways, but kids are curious, fun, and smart. Or at least most of them are.
"Listen," Mr. Wonka said, "I'm an old man. I'm much older than you think. I can't go on forever. I've got no children of my own, no family at all. So who is going to run the factory when I get too old to do it myself?" (30.10)
As we've been reading, Mr. Wonka's age has hardly crossed our minds at all. He's so full of energy and fun that we don't stop to think – this man is an adult. This quote's a harsh dose of reality after a fantastical romp through his factory.
"And I want lots of Oompa-Loompas to row me about, and I want a chocolate river and I want… I want..." "She wants a good kick in the pants," whispered Grandpa Joe to Charlie.
One of our favorite parts of the book is the close friendship between Grandpa Joe, who's ninety-six, and Charlie, who's quite young. They're not your typical duo.