I was surprised at how Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is so easy to like. Yes, there are stereotypical characters. And yes, these characters get what they deserve. At the onset (at least if you haven't seen the movie), one knows who will have an unfortunate hand dealt upon them, and who will be favored by the quick turn of events. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is, after all, a children's book.
The novel's plot zooms through its 160 pages, which works well for young readers. There isn't a chapter wherein the characters just talk about things. Dahl makes sure that there's plenty going on on each page, and boy, there is a lot going on. One forgives Dahl for this breakneck pace, because the dialogue is witty, the characters charming, and the places bizarrely wonderful.
Perhaps an older reader like me would find fault in the storyline's predictability. Charlie gets his Golden Ticket eventually, and the other 4 children suffer fates commensurate to their flaws. Veruca Salt, a spoiled girl, is found to be a rotten nut. The chubby Augustus Gloop is made to traverse a thin pipe that can barely accommodate his girth. The novel's end though, when Willy Wonka decides to make Charlie Bucket his heir, is something we've seen coming from miles away.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is indeed charming albeit simplistic. It's the kind of book you love as a kid. It's one that you keep coming back to in your adult years for the sheer pleasure of reading something where the characters are clear cut. There are no gray areas in this book. And that's a good thing these days, when you never know if that kindly old lady next door will sneak into your house at night and slash your throat.
Read this book if:
- You like sugary sweet things.
- You know that chocolate is a food group in itself.
- You've always wanted to live in a chocolate factory.