Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or How Roald Dahl Totally Went “Get Off My Lawn”

Image result for charlie and the chocolate factory book

When it comes to the relationship with our elder (or our youngster, whichever), you couldn’t help but feel there’s a certain generation gap between our way of thinking. As society keeps on evolving and technology advancement are made every day, there’s a gap of “the way things are” between our generation with the other generation. As such, it’s easy to demonize foreign element to our generation that we think is somehow responsible for why the younger generation seems to be in a “moral degradation” (the latest object of demonization being internet and smartphone gadget).

That’s a whole lot of sentiment, but what does that have to do with Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Well, underneath its fantastical narrative, I couldn’t help but feel that in the story Roald Dahl totally went on the whole “Get off my lawn” rant.

Let me start over. The novel itself is about a boy from a poor family named Charlie who one day stumble upon a golden ticket which grant him a tour of one of the largest chocolate factory in the world. As the tour progressed, one by one the other children “dropped” out, leaving Charlie as the sole attendant. The owner of the chocolate factory, Willy Wonka, deemed Charlie as the “winner” of the tour and in the process, grant Charlie the ownership of his chocolate factory.

So from that synopsis, you can imagine that the story is a pretty classic “a boy from an unfortunate circumstances get his magical victory”, but the issue lies in how Charlie “win” and how the other children “lose”.

In narrative, why did the story both “reward” or “punish” a certain character for behaving in a specific way implies a certain worldview of the author of the narrative. The question of whether or not it was intentional doesn’t really matter. So in the case of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, why did the children other than Charlie was punished in the story?

In a children story like this, the bad kids are often punished because they possessed a certain negative or a naughty quality to them. Whether they were envious, or greedy, or whatever. But in the case of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I don’t think that the children other than Charlie (Augustus, Veruca, Violet, and Mike) are necessarily “evil” or “naughty”. Heck, throughout the narrative, the other children other than Charlie are just as enthusiastic about the tour and, except for one instances, they are not really mean to any of the characters within the story. Not to their parents or even to Charlie. Sure in the case of Veruca it’s understandable given that she was a pampered spoiled girl, but I’m not sure about the others. In the case of Augustus, he was “punished” because he was fat and gluttonous which, while unhealthy, not exactly an “evil” or “naughty” trait to have in a children. This is especially more puzzling in the case of Violet and Mike, both of whom are punished simply because they really like chewing gum and television respectively.

So in the case of Charlie and the Charlie Factory, the other children didn’t win not because they are exactly mean, but simply possessing a behavior or a trait that I couldn’t help but feel like that Roald Dahl dislike during his time. This is especially clear regarding television (a popular demonization object back in the day), where Charlie’s grandparents dislike Mike simply because he likes watching television (and in how they regard Violet chewing gum habit as “beastly”), how Willy Wonka regard television as this dreadful thing, and even in the lyric of the song when Mike got shrunk in which Roald Dahl went a whole spiel regarding the bad qualities of television with Mike circumstances only mentioned by the end of the lyric.

Now that we see why other children was punished, how about we look at why do Charlie “win” in the story? In the same token, Charlie should win because he was nice, kind, generous and all of that positive qualities right? Well…..not exactly. In the story, Charlie didn’t win because he was nice. Sure there are that one instance where Charlie was depicted as kindhearted when he decided to share his chocolate to his family on his birthday, but that was it. Charlie win mostly because the other children are behaving mischievously while he follow the tour obediently. This, I’d argue, is what Roald Dahl see as the ideal child. A quiet obedient passive child who listened to their elder and read books and stay away from gums and TV’s.

This is particularly emphasized with the fact how Charlie was mostly passive in the event of the novel and through several character interaction. Like when Willy Wonka especially dislike when other children either questioned him or interrupt him during the tour, or in the reason why Charlie’s grandparents like him so much. It was never really clear in the story why the grandparents likes Charlie, but given the interaction that the novel does show, it seems like they like Charlie for being a quiet listener in their story.

So….that’s pretty much how I would argue that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is Roald Dahl’s secret “Kids these days” rant. It’s not exactly a harmful or a particularly dangerous viewpoint, but…..man I’m really getting tired of these rant.

Side Note:

  • Here’s wishing my lecturer stumble upon this post and give me an extra credit for it (Hello Miss Nita or Miss Dian!)
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