Roald Dahl wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1964. At this point, Dahl had been writing for some time and his timeless work James and the Giant Peach had already been published. This novel, however, is Dahl’s most well known. It is believed to have sold over 20 million copies and is available in 55 languages.
It was first published in the United States by Alfred A Knopf Inc., and was published in the UK by George Allen and Unwin. It has had two major movie adaptations, one in 1971 with Gene Wilder and one in 2005 with Johnny Depp. It has a sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. There was a third book planned, but Dahl never completed it.
The book was inspired by Dahl’s experiences with chocolate as a schoolboy. Cadbury would frequently send packages to schools to receive feedback on their new products. Another company, Rowntree’s, would do the same. These companies became increasingly competitive and desperately tried to steal each other’s trade secrets. In concurrence with this, the companies hoarded their processes. This keeping of secrets and the large, fantastical machines that the company used were the main inspiration for the story.
Dahl started the book in 1961, and it went through several drafts. For instance, at one point Charlie was one of ten children who entered the factory, compared to the five it is in the completed story. Additionally, two unpublished chapters have been released. One involves a candy called “Spotty Powder," which causes red marks to appear on children so that they may go home from school early. The other involves the “Fudge Mountain." In this chapter, two children who are later cut from the story entirely are sent to the Vanilla Fudge Mountain Cutting room as a result of their own greed. This further emphasizes Dahl’s usage of karma, with the bad children having nasty things happen to them and the good child, Charlie, being rewarded.
Dahl dedicated this book to his son Theo, and it has spread all across the globe. Dahl even received a few letters from actual people named Willy Wonka. Dahl wrote the screenplay for the first screen adaptation of his book, with Gene Wilder portraying Willy Wonka. Tim Burton directed a second version in 2005, with Johnny Depp playing Wonka. A musical adaptation appeared on the West End in 2013, with Douglas Hodge as Wonka.