The Bucket family—the hero of the story, Charlie Bucket;his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bucket; and his four grandparents, GrandpaJoe, Grandma Josephine, Grandpa George, and Grandma Georgina—is aloving but poor family. They live in a small house with only one bed,which the four grandparents share. Charlie and his parents sleepon mattresses on the floor. Mr. Bucket works in a toothpaste factoryand barely earns enough money to feed his family. They are forcedto subsist on bread and margarine for breakfast, boiled potatoesand cabbage for lunch, and cabbage soup for supper. Charlie longsfor more filling foods, especially chocolate, which he receives onlyonce a year on his birthday. On that day he gets one bar of Wonkachocolate, which he savors for months and months. Charlie’s housesits on the outskirts of a large town that is famous for the Wonkachocolate factory. Charlie must pass by the Wonka chocolate factoryevery day on his way to and from school. Each day as he walks bythe factory’s colossal iron gates, Charlie inhales deeply and praysthat someday he will get to venture inside the factory.

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Every night after dinner, Charlie goes into his grandparents’ room.Just the sight of Charlie enlivens his grandparents. Grandpa Joetells stories to amuse Charlie, and the others listen in rapture. Oneevening Charlie asks his grandparents about the Wonka chocolatefactory, and Grandpa Joe tells Charlie the story of Mr. Wonka. Hebegins by saying Mr. Wonka is the greatest chocolate maker in thewhole world and his factory is the biggest in the whole world. GrandpaJoe recounts many of Mr. Wonka’s amazing feats, including his morethan two hundred varieties of candy bars, which are eaten by kingsand presidents across the world. Grandpa Joe also regales Charliewith tales of impossible Wonka inventions, such as ice cream thatstays frozen in the sun, marshmallows that taste like flowers, andchewing gum that never loses its flavor. During the storytelling,Mr. and Mrs. Bucket stand in the doorway and share in the listeningenjoyment.


The opening chapters of the story create a stark dichotomybetween what Charlie has and what he does not have, which demonstrates Charlie’sinfinitely patient and humble character. Charlie’s four grandparents—allof whom are over ninety—require constant care from his mother, andhis father’s meager wages barely buy enough food for their family.The physical differences between Charlie’s home and the chocolatefactory further reinforce this dichotomy: Charlie lives in smallwooden house on the outskirts of town. The chocolate factory isgigantic, indomitable, and the guardian of untold treasures. Indeed,Charlie’s mattress lies within the shadow of the factory, and heis constantly bombarded with the sight of overabundance while hehimself is nearly starving to death. Grandpa Joe’s stories aboutthe wondrous creations lying within the Wonka vault further magnifythe difference between what Charlie has and what others have.

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Dahl employs an overly familiar writing style, in whichhe talks to his reader as if telling the story out loud to an audience.He does this in order to point out to the reader important details,such as with whom to sympathize. Dahl makes Charlie a universallyloveable character by having him courteously address the reader—“Howd’you do? And how d’you do? And how d’you do, again? I’m pleasedto meet you.” —and by almost overemphasizing the hardships in Charlie’slife, like the torture of seeing other kids indulge in chocolatewhile he goes hungry. Dahl accentuates these hardships through theuse of italicizing and further through the use of exclamation points.

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