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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: 04/11/16

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is a book I decided to revisit after having seen the statue of Roald Dahl in Cardiff, Wales. Dahl was born in Llandaff, a neighborhood of Cardiff about two miles from his statue on the waterfront.

Dahl had actually moved to New York by the time he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but Cardiff is there in the unnamed city where Charlie lives and the shuttered chocolate factor is housed. There's probably a bit of Victorian Birmingham in this fictional factory town as that's the birth place of Cadbury, the United Kingdom's best known chocolate producer (and one that uses a very Willy Wonka color scheme on it's website).

So here we have a city that is basically in an every dwindling stasis, trapped in the time just after Willy Wonka shut the gates of the factory. In this city we have a boy stuck with his father, mother, and their parents, all barely making ends meet in a single room shack, with the grandparents sharing the one and only bed. Their diet consists mostly of cabbage, save for once a year when Charlie gets some birthday chocolate.

Then out of the blue, Willy Wonka reappears and offers to open his factory to tours to anyone who finds one of five golden tickets (an event that has become cliched now in tween fantasy). Charlie, of course, does end up with one, even though it seems impossible given how in frequently he gets to eat sweets. The news breathes new life into the family and Charlie's grandfather decides to go with him to tour the factory.

Willy Wonka is a hard to peg character. But in the sequel it's implied that he might very well be a time lord. Let's think about that in terms of the factory. Perhaps Wonka didn't lock himself away, depressed over something. Perhaps he just meant to step out in his TARDIS for a bit of fun or something but ended being late, as the Doctor often is. Imagine a town that had grown reliant on his presence, suddenly being without. Perhaps, then, on realizing his mistake, he decides to right the wrong and prevent it from happening again, in the extravagant, slightly zanny way that time lords seem to function.

In the meantime, we have four families from around the world and one local ringer. Any semi regular Doctor Who fan knows that when the Doctor comes into the middle of something, the group of people he rescues, or somehow befriends, will end up facing dire things and quite possibly injury if not death, save for the lucky ones who happen to live long enough for the Doctor to learn from his mistakes.

Of course after all is said and done and the most troublesome of the children have been eliminated, one way or another, and even after Charlie and his grandfather nearly get themselves eliminated by not following the rules, they're still given the ultimate reward of becoming Willy's proteges. And off they fly in the TARDIS disguised here as a glass elevator, and the hook for book two.

I know this book is among his best know. It's had two film adaptations, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971 and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2005. In all its forms, the factory is memorable. It's magical in faerie sort of way: stay on the path and don't eat any food. If you stray from the path or eat any food, you can't leave. Willy Wonka isn't of this world. That much is certain.

Three stars

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