Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
Yesterday evening on the bus I fulfilled a long ago wish. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of those books that I just missed out on reading while growing up. Amidst all the Enid Blytons and the Arabian Nights and Puffin's Children's Classics, this one remained a book "that I should definitely read at least this year." Probably for the first time in a while I wasn't grumpy or irritated when I stepped off the bus after a two hour journey through an absolutely smog filled city. No. I was in chocolate land. And I am guilty of buying a bar of twix on my way home. Or two.
There is nothing new that I can say about Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that hasn't already been said. Everyone knows that he is a master story spinner and that this book is his best loved, probably ahead even of Matilda or the Fantastic Mr.Fox. I do not claim to review his book here nor am I going to analyze the storyline. I am simply going to gape slack-jawed and open mouthed at the fact that something he wrote years and years ago for children has that power to keep an adult (or semi-adult as the case may be :-]) agog till the last line. I have never believed in grown-ups phoo-phooing children's stories on the grounds that they have outgrown them long ago. Because no matter how many Sidney Sheldons or Dan Browns you might read, how big a fan of literary fiction or the classics you might be, what's the point if you are not able to appreciate a little Velveteen Rabbit or Scheherazade or Charlie Bucket every now and then?
I loved everything; I loved Grandpa Joe and Grandma Joe ( I found Grandpa and Grandma Geroge a little wimpy); I adored the huge bedstead that all the four grandparents shared; poor tired Mrs.Bucket who tries to slip her share of the meal to Charlie and poor tired Mr.Bucket with his "Cripes!" And then there is Willy Wonka and the Oompa-Loompas and the chocolate river and the snozzberries and the rainbow drops and the wriggle toffees and a million other chocolates (all that I want to list but won't in fear of irritating my readers further). And most of all there is Charlie; Charlie wins you over completely even before the story begins. I blame it on Mr.Dhal. How can you not love Charlie with an introduction like this one?
There are five children in this book:
Augustus Gloop - A greedy boy
Veruca Salt - A girl who is spoiled by her parents
Violet Beauregarde - A girl who chews gum all day long
Michael Teavee - A boy who does nothing but watch television
Charlie Bucket - The Hero
See what I mean? You stand no chance. It's a simple world, Mr.Wonka's. In his world, the good get rewarded, the bad get punished, the Oompa-Loompas sing songs about it and everything turns out alright in the end. "They all just come out of the wash in the end; they always do." I used to love Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree stories and Hogsmeade and the Weasley Twins' goodies from Harry Potter but this book took the chocolate/sweet fantasy to a whole new level. Mr.Dahl has influenced and taught generations of children how to dream and to imagine and that is no simple thing. A word for Quentin Blake: his illustrations brought the book alive and I enjoyed the story twice as much because of them. I am going to save the epithets beecause Mr.Dahl has received them all. Instead, I am just going to say that yesterday he gave me a gift that I don't come by too often. He made me feel five years old again.