Having said that, I am finding it really difficult not to do a post-colonial reading of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I mean, come on! Willy Wonka “rescuing” the Oompa-Loompas from an “uncivilized” existence of living in trees and eating…well, eating green caterpillars, which they admitted themselves were disgusting. So maybe, in that respect, they’re better off in the chocolate factory. Anyway, the point is that there are a LOT of things in this book that make an adult reader think twice.
That is, of course, the whole point. This book is aimed at a younger audience than any of the others I’ve covered so far. (The inscription in this particular used copy, for example, says “For David Freeman, Happy birthday #8, Love, Aunt Wendy and Uncle Ted.”) It’s not for me now, it was for me when I was eight, or nine, or ten. I remember loving, and probably not thinking twice about, many of the plot points that I got stuck on this time around.
Willy Wonka is delightfully insane, and one of the best recurring gags is the way the children frequently question him, at which point he claims to be unable to hear them or not to have time. This highlights the way kids in children’s literature are often smarter than adults, even in this book, where most of the kids are quite stupid. Dahl walks the fine line between blaming parents for children’s bad behavior and making kids take responsibility for their actions. In the end, Charlie proves himself to be the smartest of all and is rewarded with a chocolate factory for his efforts.
I am sure there is more to say, but it’s been a long day and I’m sleepy. So I’ll leave you with this: this book is almost but not quite as great now as it was when I was younger. Sometimes your reading skills don’t improve with age.