Don’t Cheer for Charlie Bucket.

By, Phoenix Robertson

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

The story of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory centers around the tale of the famous and fictional chocolatier Willy Wonka and his quest to find an heir to his candy factory and fortune. Through the process of randomly placing golden tickets in candy bars and sending them all over the world, Wonka recruited 5  children for his indoctrination factory tour in hopes to bequeath his estate to someone deserving. As the children and their parents tour the chocolate factory with Mr. Wonka, their sweet and innocent facades begin to melt away. Each child finds a room within the magical factory that preys on their individual weaknesses. At the end of the film, it is revealed that Charlie Bucket, the last of the five children to find a golden ticket will inherit Wonka’s factory and fortune. However, if you examine his behaviors throughout the film adaptation, you can see that his character isn’t as perfect as he is made out to be. Follow along with me on this adventure through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and through the character of the story’s lead protagonist, Charlie Bucket. 

The Wonderful World of Willy Wonka 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a children’s novel that was published in 1964 and written by Roald Dahl. Since the book’s release, it has become a childhood favorite of many generations. The book is taught in elementary schools across the globe and is known for its wacky humor. It gained a film adaption in 1971, titled Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder as the famous chocolatier and Peter Ostrum as evil incarnate Charlie Bucket. The movie was remade in 2005 featuring Johnny Depp as Mr. Wonka and Freddie Highmore as little Charlie. This new adaptation of the original story was titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The Good, the Bad, and the Charlie Bucket

It is a well known fact to anyone who has seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that the entire goal of the film is to show that children should be raised to be kind and considerate of others. This allegory is especially highlighted as we bear witness to each child’s odious demise while on Willy’s tour. . In the film, these punishments often happen to be ironic and comedic to prove a point. Each child in the film experiences a room that accentuates their many foibles, exposing them as unfit to lead Willy’s empire. . In almost all of the children’s cases, having to confront their idiosyncrasies proved to be too much for the children to handle, disqualifying them from receiving the grand prize at the end of the tour while giving Willy a transparent assessment of leadership potential. 

As soon as all of the children visiting the chocolate factory sign a contract saying that they will agree to the rules that Wonka sets during the tour, the adventure into the magical world of a mad man’s confections begins. He reiterates that breaking the rules means no prize. Upon entering the first room of the tour, Augustus Gloop met his match. Augustus is a young boy from Germany whose parents allowed him to eat candy all day long. As soon as he saw the chocolate lake in the middle of the room he ran towards it and fell in while trying to drink the water like chocolate. He is then sucked up by a large tube and taken to the factory’s fudge room. His mother–who accompanied him on the tour–didn’t protest that her son was taken out of the tour or out of the running for the grand prize. She was only concerned for his safety. The same is true of the next child, the infamous Violet Beauregarde, a gum-addicted little girl who is as egotistical as she is conceited. Violet stole and chewed a new invention of Wonka, that gives the chewer the illusion of eating a four course meal only to be turned into a giant blueberry due to a side effect of the gum that hadn’t been fully worked out by Wonka’s team. As the third and fourth children left the factory with their families, a common theme resulted in their dismissals: rules are meant to be followed and not broken.

The film then shows innocent Charlie and old Grandpa Joe, who is just as morally corrupt as Charlie, investigating a room full of sodas that make those who ingest them float. Charlie and Grandpa Joe drink the sodas–an act against the rules– but manage to escape their undoing by burping their way back down to the ground. The duo then rejoins Wonka on his tour as Willy plays along and pretends to not know about their little trip to the aptly named fizzy fizzy lifting room. That is until the end of the tour when he tells them to leave and that Charlie has not won the grand prize for breaking the rules. Charlie and Grandpa Joe are then outraged! They are of the opinion that because Charlie was not stopped from participating in the tour after drinking the soda, then he should win the grand prize. This is my biggest problem with Charlie. He expects to still win the prize, when he knows that he cheated and should no longer be eligible for the prize. Every other child understood that what they did was wrong and that they shouldn’t get the prize, yet Charlie seems to think that he is above the rules that apply to all people. He even made comments throughout the film discussing how spoiled and bad children shouldn’t win prizes. Such ridiculousness. 

It was clear to me before the factory tour began that Grandpa Joe wasn’t a good person. In the beginning of the film it is said that Grandpa Joe, as well as Charlie’s other grandparents, is bed ridden and is so weak he can barely move. However, when it comes time for Charlie to go on the adventure of a lifetime to the famous chocolate factory, he’s been miraculously cured. Did the magic of Wonka cure him? Or was he faking his illness while his daughter and son-in-law slave away and starve each day to support him?

For someone who seems to care so much about good character and morality, Grandpa Joe did a poor job of teaching Charlie the lesson that cheaters never prosper. Instead, he teaches Charlie that if you don’t get caught, then whatever you do is alright and if anyone accuses you of anything, you can argue yourself out of that too. Oh yes, Grandpa Joe, teach the young, impressionable boy that you have a very large hand in raising, that cheating and stealing is a strong way to start off your life. I’m sure that will go exceedingly well for him. It is also never revealed why Charlie’s family is in such devastating poverty. Perhaps Grandpa Joe has an answer to that question.

The Grand Prize

Eventually, Willy Wonka kindly caves and agrees with Charlie’s hypocritical pleas. Wonka gives Charlie the grand prize, revealed to be Wonka’s entire fortune, chocolate making secrets, and the chocolate factory. Charlie was then awarded a place as Wonka’s apprentice. With this knowledge, Charlie then happily returns home with the knowledge that he has just saved his family from a life of poverty for eternity because of his new appointment while being deaf to his ethical shortcomings. In my world, you can’t have your cake AND eat it too, Charlie! 

Thank you all for joining me on this literary adventure through the hypocritical thought processes of Charlie Bucket and his Grandpa Joe. I hope that this article sparked your curiosity concerning examining the behaviors of your favorite characters and perhaps reconsidering if they really fit the role they were selected to fill. Thank you for reading and please comment your opinions on Charlie Bucket and the “Willy Wonka” franchise as a whole in the comments below!


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