The first thing we find out about Willy Wonka is that he is the "greatest inventor and maker of chocolates that there has ever been" (1.20). He is defined by his chocolates. And in fact, he seems to define himself by his chocolates, too. Throughout the story, his exuberance (enthusiasm) is expressed almost always in regards to chocolates, sweets, and inventions. Not only is he good at what he does, but he loves what he does. A lot. Not a bad deal.
Even before we meet Mr. Wonka, we learn that he's a good guy. Grandpa Joe describes him as being "so nice" (4.11), and portrays him as the victim in a terrible recipe-stealing heist. Once we get to know him, this niceness is confirmed. He keeps the factory warm so his workers will be comfortable (14.21), and he shows genuine concern for the little Oompa-Loompas.
You might be ready to protest: "Wait a second, Shmoop, Willy Wonka couldn't care less about the children who get thrown down garbage chutes and shrunk into pocket-sized versions of themselves!" True story. But you know, those kids deserved it. We think so at least, and we're pretty sure Roald Dahl thought so, too. Willy Wonka cares about the people (and things!) that deserve his care; but he's also a realistic guy, and so he lets the naughty children fend for themselves. How else will they learn?
Willy Wonka is eccentric, that's for sure. If he were to describe himself, it would probably be something like "Eccentric! Quirky! Unique! Outlandish! Unconventional!" – you get the point.
He wears a tail coat and a top hat (the Golden Tickets didn't say black-tie only, did they?), with green pants, gray gloves, and cane. Aside from his clothes, he has "bright twinkling eyes" (14.9) and a voice that's "high and flutey" (14.11). Hmmm. Definitely one-of-a-kind. And his personality matches his clothes. You might even call him a bit mad: he dances and sings at strange times, pretends he can't understand very simple questions, and shouts words just for the fun of it.
Our favorite chocolate maker is quite a smart guy. We know from early on (Chapter 3) that he can construct a palace out of chocolate – that's a feat of engineering if we ever saw one. Once we see his other inventions – Lickable Wallpaper! Glow-In-The-Dark Lollipops! Cavity-Filling Caramels! – we know that this genius is for real.
And he's not only a master of inventions; he also has quite a way with words. Mr. Wonka loves to talk – maybe even more than Violet Beauregarde – and he does so with so much enthusiasm that it almost wears you out just thinking about it. Almost everything he says is followed by an exclamation point and he's never lacking an adjective to describe how wonderful something is. And to top it off, he throws around puns like it's his job. He has square treats that look round (23.16), has beans (18.46), and many other plays on words that are sometimes hard to catch.
What we love most about him is that Willy Wonka adds light, humor, and excitement to a book that – if you really think about it – is rather dark at times. In a story of poverty and naughty children, Mr. Wonka reminds us that life is fun, and we shouldn't forget it.