Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


Favourable views

A fan of the book since childhood, film director Tim Burton states, "I responded to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because it respected the fact that children can be adults."[11][12] In a 2006 list for the Royal Society of Literature, author J. K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter books) named Charlie and the Chocolate Factory among her top ten books every child should read.[13]

A 2004 study found that it was a common read-aloud book for fourth-graders in schools in San Diego County, California.[14] A 2012 survey by the University of Worcester determined that it was one of the most common books that UK adults had read as children, after Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Wind in The Willows.[15]

Accolades for the book include

  • New England Round Table of Children's Librarians Award (USA, 1972)
  • Surrey School Award (UK, 1973)
  • Millennium Children's Book Award (UK, 2000)
  • Blue Peter Book Award (UK, 2000)
  • The Big Read poll conducted by the BBC listed the book at number 35 of the "nation's best-loved novels" (UK, 2003)[16]
  • National Education Association "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children" based on a poll (USA, 2007)[17]
  • School Library Journal "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time based on a poll (USA, 2012)[18]

Unfavourable views and revisions

Although the book has always been popular and considered a children's classic by many literary critics, a number of prominent individuals have spoken critically of the novel over the years. Dominic Cheetham observes that numerous publishers turned down Dahl's book and even Knopf - the original, American publisher - agreed both that the book was in bad taste and books should not be aimed at both children and adults, as was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.[19] Children's novelist and literary historian John Rowe Townsend has described the book as "fantasy of an almost literally nauseating kind" and accused it of "astonishing insensitivity" regarding the original portrayal of the Oompa-Loompas as black pygmies,[20] although Dahl did revise this later.[19] Cheetham notes that no outcry was raised about the anti-Indian sentiment shown in the "humorous, but belittling" naming of the Indian Prince Pondicherry and the portrayal of the "incredible stupidity in a stereotyped racial icon".[21]

Another novelist, Eleanor Cameron, compared the book to the sweets that form its subject matter, commenting that it is "delectable and soothing while we are undergoing the brief sensory pleasure it affords but leaves us poorly nourished with our taste dulled for better fare".[22] Ursula K. Le Guin voiced her support for this assessment in a letter to Cameron.[23] Defenders of the book have pointed out it was unusual for its time in being quite dark for a children's book, with the "antagonists" not being adults or monsters (as is the case for most of Dahl's books) but the naughty children, who receive sadistic punishment in the end. However, despite such criticisms and complaints about the "high-handed way in which Mr Willy Wonka treats other people in the book",[24] Mr. Wonka remains authoritarian, the supposedly tasteless features remain, the violence to the various children remains, and the supposedly dual nature of the intended readership also remains firmly unchanged."[25]

Cheetham has catalogued additional criticisms about the book, including: "General Attitudes to Foreigners", citing the treatment of characters who may be perceived as American (Cheetham, p. 10), in addition to the African and Indian characters noted above; "Employer-Employee Relations" (Cheetham, pp. 10–11); "Human Guinea Pigs" (Cheetham, p. 11); "General Attitudes Towards Class" (Cheetham, pp. 11–12); "The Myth of Noble Poverty" (Cheetham, p. 12); "Attitudes to Children" (Cheetham, p. 12); "Attitudes to Parenthood" (Cheetham, pp. 12–13); and "Alcohol Abuse" (Cheetham, p. 13).[26]

The cover art for Penguin UK's Modern Classics 50th Anniversary Edition of the book (publication date September 2014) has also received substantial criticism for his taste level and age-appropriateness. (See Editions.)

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