Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remains to this day my favourite childrens book, and whilst it may not be a product of the 1980’s (it was originally published in 1964 in the US and 1967 in the UK) it was at this time that I was the right age to read and enjoy this book all by myself.
There surely can’t be many who aren’t familiar with the story from either reading the book, hearing it read on Jackanory or watching one of the two film adaptations – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (released in 1971 and featuring Gene Wilder in the title role) and the more recent Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (released 2005 and starring Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka), but below is a brief recap.
Young Charlie Bucket is an only child from an incredibly poor family, who lives near to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, a strange imposing building where the only thing that ever leaves are the trucks containing the delicious sweets made there. Â One day, Willy Wonka announces that he is putting five golden tickets in random bars of his chocolate, which will entitle the lucky finders to a tour of his factory.
Charlie is excited by the news, but also dismayed as he realises that being so poor he is unlikely to have the chance to buy a bar of chocolate let alone win a golden ticket. Â One by one the tickets are found, the first by Augustus Gloop, a glutton of a boy who eats multiple bars a day. Â Another is found by Violet Budgerigar, who normally is a world record bubble gum chewer.
Veruca Salt is a spoilt child who orders her father, the owner of a nut factory, to get her a ticket. Â This he does by getting his employees to open chocolate bars rather than nuts until a ticket is found. Â The fourth ticket is found by Mike TV, a young boy who is always glued to the television set.
Of course, Charlie ends up getting the final ticket when he finds a coin in the street and buys a chocolate bar with it. Â The first bar he buys is just a regular bar, but he buys one more and this is the winner! Â Charlie is now off to see the wonderful factory, accompanied by his normally bed ridden Grandpa Joe, who finds a new lease of life with Charlie’s discovery.
The five children enter the factory will the wildly eccentric Willy Wonka, but one by one they all (except Charlie) fall foul to some hideous accident, all thanks to their own doing. Â Augustus Gloop falls in a chocolate river and is sucked up a giant pipe, whilst Violet Budgerigar becomes a giant blueberry after sampling Wonka’s chewing gum meal, which isn’t quite perfected yet. Â Veruca Salt is thrown away like a bad nut by some squirrels, whilst Mike TV gets miniaturised after being broadcast by Wonka TV.
At the end of the tour Charlie is the only child remaining, and Willy Wonka reveals that the purpose of the tour was for him to find a successor to carry on running his factory, as he is getting on in years and has no aire. Â Fearing an adult would want to change the way his factory worked, for example getting rid of the tiny Oompa Loompas who are his loyal employees, Wonka decided his best course of action was to find a child deserving enough to carry on his work.
In my opinion the book is definitely the best version of the story, probably because it was the first version I ever was exposed to. Â Of the two films I prefer the more recent Tim Burton version as it is closer to the original book, but neither movie strays too far from the original plot and both are excellent family viewing.