“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was published in 1964, when Roald Dahl was 48 years old. If he could write such a delightful kid’s classic as an adult, then surely, it can be read, and taken boundless delight in by a grown-up. Yes?
I am that grown-up.
The reclusive genius chocolatier, Mr. Willy Wonka, has released a set of five “golden tickets,” to be found under the wrappers of his candy bars. Their finders will be invited to his famous factory and be taken by him on a day-long tour of its compound and shown its mysteries.
Once the announcement is carried in the newspapers, “the whole country, indeed, the whole world, seemed suddenly to be caught up in a mad candy-buying spree, everybody searching frantically for those precious remaining tickets.”
The sales of Wonka candy bars go through the roof as a result. But this is no marketing gimmick, but a brilliant strategy by Mr. Wonka to ferret out a worthy corporate successor.
Charlie Bucket is a little boy who lives on the edge of a chilly town. His father is a shop-floor worker in a toothpaste factory. His family is dirt-poor, living on cabbages and potatoes. And all he looks forward to are Mr. Wonka’s sweet offerings.
But what are the chances that he’ll be one of the lucky winners? Almost none. But his experience goes to show that the greatest gifts in life come when they’re least expected.
Writing children’s literature is no child’s play. Those which go on to become masterpieces, often, take a heck of a lot more creativity than cranking out, say, a slapdash romance because of how clever and inventive they are.
Take Mr. Wonka. His manufacturing operations aren’t that of any run-of-the-mill chocolate maker.
How does he make his chocolate light and frothy? By having it mixed by a waterfall. How does he shell his walnuts? By hiring a squad of squirrels. Because they’re so swift and nimble, they’re capable of removing a nut intact, without breaking it in half.
Most of his factory is a subterranean labyrinth, where he has rooms as vast as a football field. Not only does he make the most scrumptious confectionery, he also presides over an establishment, which, in itself, is a lollapalooza.
It has soft pink corridors and white tunnels. Through it runs a brown river of rich chocolate, flanked by lush meadows, whose grass is made of minty sugar. There’s a glass elevator, with buttons on the walls and the ceiling, which doesn’t just go up and down, but sideways as well, delivering you to the very door of every room.
Mr. Wonka speaks in puns, and his logic is weirdly witty like a character from “Alice in Wonderland.”
When the little visiting party goes past a room that says, “STOREROOM NO. 71, WHIPS—ALL SHAPES AND SIZES,” Veruca Salt asks Mr. Wonka what he uses whips for. “For whipping cream, of course.” he says.
How can you whip cream without whips? Whipped cream isn’t whipped cream at all unless it’s been whipped with whips. Just as a poached egg isn’t a poached egg unless it’s been stolen from the woods in the dead of night!
They pass a yellow door, next, which says: “STOREROOM NO. 77—ALL THE BEANS—CACAO BEANS, COFFEE BEANS, JELLY BEANS, HAS BEENS.”
Mr. Wonka’s “chocolate television” is somewhat of a teleporter. A bar of chocolate is placed before the lens of an enormous camera. A flashbulb goes off and it’s broken down into a cloud of tiny pieces and dispersed in the air. At the other end, a silver screen brings it up whole, ready to be eaten.