Children's Literature

Character Analysis Mr Willy Wonka in Roald Dahls Charlie and the Chocolate Factory



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Willy Wonka of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” is a character that inspires both awe and fear in readers. Mr. Wonka is an eccentric who is pretty much barely holding on to his sanity. Roald Dahl wanted his readers to be intrigued by the character of Wonka. And though it would seem that Wonka is the antagonist of this book, because his factory punishes the children, the naughty children are, in fact, the antagonists. This was seen as a controversial move on Mr. Dahl’s part, but children and adults still read and love the book today.

Willy Wonka owns a chocolate factory that makes the most amazing sweets in the whole world. He can do anything with sweets that anyone has ever desired- in fact, he probably has already. When the protagonist, Charlie meets him, he is awestruck, and perhaps a little bit afraid of him. The fear quickly escalates due to the horrible fates that begin to befall the other children. Wonka takes a little too much pleasure in mocking the nasty little brats, but really, their punishments are deserved.

Mr. Wonka, though narcissistic and strange, is also a benevolent character. His kindness can be seen in the way that he interacts with the Oompa Loompas. He rescued the strange beings from their violent homeland, and in exchange for a generous supply of chocolate, they bring his magic to life. Making them work for chocolate can be interpreted as cruel, but truly, it is all the Oompa Loompas asked for, aside from asking to be taken from Loompaland. His paternal nature can be seen when Wonka speaks with them.

Wonka has an affinity for children, as he was betrayed by the adults who used to work in his factory. This is why he wishes to choose a child to take over the factory for him. Children are adaptable, and also moldable. Mr. Wonka wished to mold the winning child into another version of himself, so that the child could continue on with his work after he was gone. His disgust at the other children, aside from Charlie, is palpable. Their selfish ways truly abhor him, and so he quickly gets rid of them by their own nasty acts, leaving Charlie as the winner of his little test of character.

There have been two movie adaptations of Roald Dahl’s book. In 1971, Gene Wilder brought Willy Wonka to life, though his version of the eccentric chocolatier was a tad sweeter than Dahl envisioned it. Dahl was actually so upset by his softer portrayal of the character, that he didn’t allow anyone to make another film based on the book while he was alive. However, Wilder did bring something unique that added to the eccentric character. When the five children first meet Mr. Wonka, Wilder rewrote the scene to add the part where he limps, and then falls down without his cane, before somersaulting into a grand finish. He wanted the audience to be unsure of whether his character was telling the truth during the rest of the film. And he succeeded! Even today, new viewers of the 1971 movie are always suspicious of Wilder’s Wonka and his motives.

Then, in 2005, fifteen years after Roald Dahl’s death, Tim Burton acquired the rights to make another film. To no one’s surprise, he cast Johnny Depp as the loveable child-like weirdo. Depp’s unique abilities to truly become the character he is portraying made for a Willy Wonka that was much more like the book version. Burton gave his Wonka a back story from borrowing themes that were found in the sequel, “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.” Depp brought the character to life with more darkness and naivety than his predecessor, and his version was both loved and hated by fans.

In conclusion, Willy Wonka is an unforgettable character from the recesses of Roald Dahl’s mind. He is a man of contradictions. Wonka is both naive and wise, benevolent and narcissistic, and kind and judgmental. He is an eccentric man who was betrayed by his peers, but rose above it to see the good in humanity once more. People have been talking about this character for nearly fifty years, and they probably will for fifty years more.

More about this author: Meagan Paramore

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