Saturday, February 20, 2010
I Smell Sex and Candy Here..
Book16: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl
My earliest memory of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" is a two-parter: 1) checking out the book every week straight for about a month and a half in the 4th grade, and 2) sitting on the toilet for something like forty minutes just reading the book, page after page. Why didn't I get off the pot when I was done and go read in my room or in the kitchen or on the couch or something? I do not know, but that memory alone solidies the book as nostalgic goodness since it combined two of my most favorite activities at such a young age. Who knew that I'd grow up to be the boy that I already was?
For people who did not get to experience a wonderfully book-filled childhood, Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" revolves around a little lad named Charlie Bucket. Charlie Bucket lives an extremely impoverished life with his parents and all his grandparents in a little cottage on the outskirts of town. In his life, there is only one thing Charlie craves: chocolate. Unfortunately, due to being crazy poor, Charlie's chocolate consumption is regulated to a single candy bar a year, given to him on his birthday. But Charlie's luck is about to change. The wildly reclusive (and with good reason) king of candy, Mr. Willy Wonka, is coming out of hiding and opening his chocolate factory for ONE DAY and ONE DAY ALONE to five children who find a golden ticket in a Wonka candy bar. Charlie happens to be one of the these children. He, along with four other children and their parents, step into the world of Willy Wonka, and their lives are forever changed.
It's a different experience reading a children's classic years later as a grown adult. Back then in the 4th grade, I loved the book for its innocent fun: the childish, crazy language, the crazy events and characters, and all the crazy candy ideas Willy Wonka conjured up. It was all crazy, but it all seemed so innocent and fantastical. Now, all my jadedness (however much that may be) and cynicism skew my after thoughts of the story a tad. The after thoughts don't seem to adulterate my childish enjoyment of the book, but they do arise.
One thing I found myself pondering about were Wonka's inventions and ideas for candy. As a child, it was all just fantastic candy, but as an adult, with all the advances in science and technology, I find myself wondering about the plausibility of some of these candies either now or in the near future. For example, Wonka invented a stick of gum that tasted like a three course meal. Now, he took it a step further by making it feel as though you were eating the actual meal rather than tasting it, but wouldn't it be somewhat plausible to create a stick of gum that, at different times, tasted like three different flavors? I feel like with some sort of time release mixed with some chemicals or drugs, this could actually happen. Or what about Wonka's square candies that look round? They're basically sugar cubes with faces painted on them that focus on people as they move around the room. Can't we just paint pictures on them (as the Oompa-Loompas do) so that the eyes follow you around the room like those portraits of Jesus? Or insert some sort of advanced nanotechnology and detects movements in the room and shifts the pictures accordingly? There's also some easy ones like marshmallow pillows and lickable wallpaper for nursery rooms, but doesn't this stuff seem possible? I guess it would all be impractical to make, considering how much some of this science and technology would cost, but it seems possible, doesn't it? Or am I just being as crazy as Willy Wonka?
The other subject I found myself thinking about heavily is the man himself, Mr. Willy Wonka. As a child, he just seemed like a crazy old grandpa or inventor or something that wanted to give kids their ultimate dream, but now, he seems like a little more than that. For one thing, he seems to take all of the accidents that occur too well in stride. Yes, he did warn each of the victims in the most serious of tones, but he seems to shrug the after effects too easily. It isn't just a matter of him knowing that no serious harm would come to the victims. Most of them are permanently, physically scarred for life at the end of novel, yet he just comes up with excuses and basically gets that dirt off his shoulder. Whether they win or not, I would think there would be lawsuits involved somewhere. The other part about him that got me was how he basically...
...used the tour as his own sick version of "Survivor" (yes, "Survivor" came after "Chocolate Factory", and of course the concept of "survival of the fittest" has been around since the dawn of time). As they travel through the factory's odd rooms and stations, the children are picked off one by one, falling due to their own childish disobedience. As I stated, yes, Wonka warned them, but I can't help but feel that he only did so to cover himself legally, and actually WANTED the harm to befall the children. After all, how else would they be weeded out? He was probably secretly cheering to himself every time someone was eliminated. The Oompa-Loompas certainly were.
As strangely sadistic as Willy Wonka might have seemed in my adult eyes, in the end, and probably for Roald Dahl's intentions, he's just an old man who wants to make wishes come true (no Michael Jackson comments please). Beyond that, Wonka wants his legacy to continue on in the best way possible. He believes in the innocence and heartfelt truth of the young who don't sully that innocence with business proposals and profits and gains and competition and other factors of the "adult" world. And despite whatever my adult self might think up, when push comes to shove, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" should be read the same way.