Is Published

Roald Dahl’s second children’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, became tremendously popular with children. The book has a sly wit, rebels against adults and adulthood, and features delightfully gruesome perils. The novel was later adapted into two popular films and has inspired a popular song and a line of candies.

Summary of Event

In September, 1964, Alfred A. Knopf Alfred A. Knopf published what rapidly became one of the best-loved children’s books of the twentieth century, British author Roald Dahl’s children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dahl’s second children’s novel. His first, James and the Giant Peach, James and the Giant Peach (Dahl) was published in 1961. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was successful despite the publication in 1964 of other children’s books that would become popular as well. These included Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Emily Neville’s It’s Like This, Cat, and Maia Wojciechowska’s Shadow of a Bull, among others. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Dahl)
[kw]Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Is Published (Sept., 1964)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Dahl)
[g]North America;Sept., 1964: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Is Published[08160]
[g]United States;Sept., 1964: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Is Published[08160]
[c]Literature;Sept., 1964: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Is Published[08160]
[c]Popular culture;Sept., 1964: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Is Published[08160]
Dahl, Roald
Cameron, Eleanor
Watkins, Ann
Schindelman, Joseph

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was written to entertain Dahl’s disabled son Theo, was a phenomenal commercial success. Critic Elaine Moss wrote in The New York Times Book Review that the work “is the funniest children’s book I have read in years; not just funny but shot through with a zany pathos that touches the young heart.” The Chinese edition included the largest number of printings of any book at the time. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was illustrated by Joseph Schindelman. Schindelman was later replaced by Quentin Blake Blake, Quentin . Dahl’s book agent was Ann Watkins, who had represented Dahl in his earlier work and who would remain his representative throughout the rest of his career.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tells the story of an impoverished child, Charlie Bucket, who lives with his parents and four grandparents, and who is allowed to buy a candy bar once each year on his birthday. One day Charlie uses money found in the street to buy a candy bar and in doing so wins a trip to the candy bar’s manufacturer, the factory of Willy Wonka, an eccentric town figure who has not been seen in years.

Roald Dahl in 1954.

(Library of Congress)

Entering the factory with five other children, their guardians, and his Grandpa Joe, Charlie finds himself transported into a magical place that makes fantastic candies. The factory is staffed by Oompa-Loompas, tiny workers who ingest only cacao beans and who Wonka has imported to keep his secrecy and protect his ideas from other candy manufacturers. Each room of the factory is dedicated to a specific job.

As the book progresses, the other visiting children give in to their impulses and are removed from the story: Augustus Gloop falls into a river of chocolate while attempting to drink from it; Veruca Salt is dragged away by squirrels who deem her “a bad nut” and throw her down a garbage chute; Violet Beauregarde turns into a blueberry and is taken away to be “dejuiced”; and Mike Teavee is inadvertently shrunk to the size of a figure on a television screen. Wonka reveals to Charlie—the last child left, and the only obedient one—that the contest involves more than a tour of the factory. By being the only child left after the tour, he has become Wonka’s inheritor and successor. Ascending into Wonka’s special glass elevator, Charlie, Grandpa Joe, and Wonka travel to the Bucket house, pick up the rest of Charlie’s family, and launch themselves into space.

The book invokes two of Dahl’s favorite themes: the reward of virtue while those giving in to vices are punished, and the triumph of children over the forces of the “grown-up” world. Like many of Dahl’s works, it invokes the larger themes of existence, which constitutes much of its appeal to children.

In the creation of the book and its array of magical confectionary, Dahl had drawn partially on his experiences as a child: his discussions with other children regarding the nature of candies such as gobstoppers and sherbets, and his memories of occasions when English manufacturer Cadbury would send boxes of new chocolate to his school for testing. Dahl daydreamed of inventing a new candy bar to be manufactured by Cadbury, and these dreams had provided the impetus for the story.

A decade after its release, the book drew criticism from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People National Association for the Advancement of Colored People;African American media representations (NAACP), from children’s author Eleanor Cameron, and from others for its portrayal of the Oompa-Loompas as dark-skinned African pygmies who take their wages in the form of cacao beans and consider Wonka a benevolent master. Cameron also decried the book as showing a “phony presentation of poverty” and objected to the sadistic overtones of the punishments to which the children are subjected. Cameron and Dahl engaged in several heated debates in print over the nature of the book.

In response to the charges of racism, Dahl changed some of the text, and several of the illustrations were changed for subsequent editions. The new version describes the Oompa-Loompas as having long golden-brown hair and white skin and coming from Loompaland, a fictional country, instead of Africa. The new version was introduced in 1973.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory won the New England Round Table of Children’s Librarians Award in 1972 and the Surrey School Award in 1973. In 1973, Allen & Unwin published a U.K. edition of the book that featured the changes made to the revised U.S. edition.


Children loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as its sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (Dahl) which Dahl wrote in 1972. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is now one of the classics of children’s literature. In 1971, it was adapted Motion-picture adaptations[Motion picture adaptations];Charlie and the Chocolate Factory into the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Stuart) which featured a screenplay by Dahl, actor Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, and the song “The Candyman Can,” which became a signature tune for Sammy Davis, Jr. The story was also produced by Swedish television as an animated series narrated by Ernst-Hugo Järeg �rd. In July, 2005, another film version, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Burton) directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as the eccentric Wonka, was released. The phrase “golden ticket,” taken from the contest in the book, passed into general use and came to mean an exclusive and highly valued opportunity.

The book’s sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, which features the Bucket family’s adventures in outer space, inspired its own brand of candy, manufactured by Nestlé and named for Wonka. The book was also been made into a video game for several platforms, including Nintendo’s GameCube, the Sony’s Playstation 2, and Microsoft’s Xbox. It was also made into a fun-house ride at the British theme park Alton Towers. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Dahl)

Further Reading

  • Bradford, Clare. “The End of Empire? Colonial and Postcolonial Journeys in Children’s Books.” Children’s Literature 29 (2001): 196-218. Compares Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Penelope Lively’s The House in Norham Gardens (1974) as two radically different interpretations of the theme of travel and colonialism that pervade nineteenth century children’s literature.
  • Cooling, Wendy. D is for Dahl. New York: Penguin Books, 2004. An alphabetical guide to Dahl that includes such tidbits as old school reports, personal recollections, and discussion of the inspiration of various works.
  • Fischel, Emma. Roald Dahl. Miami, Fla.: Caiman Press, 1999. This biography of Dahl is aimed at young adult readers and provides a basic outline of his life and literary career.
  • Rowley, John, and Haydn Middleton. Roald Dahl: An Unauthorized Biography. New York: Heinemann Library, 1998. Another brief biography that provides an overview of Dahl’s life.
  • Stuart, Mel. Pure Imagination: The Making of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005. Stuart, the director of the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, discusses the making of the movie, which he was persuaded to do by his twelve-year-old daughter Madeline.
  • Wolper, David, and David Fisher. Producer: A Memoir. New York: Scribner, 2003. This book includes a chapter devoted to the making of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

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