As winter comes, the weather grows cold and the walls of the Bucket house are not thick enough to protect them from it. In the two weeks that have passed, they have forgotten entirely about the Golden Ticket hunt and are instead concerned only with keeping warm and getting enough to eat. The situation worsens when Mr. Bucket's toothpaste factory closes down, and he is out of a job. He earns small change shoveling snow in the streets, but nowhere near enough to feed seven people. The Buckets slowly begin to starve.
Everyone knows that a growing boy like Charlie needs more food. But Charlie continues to grow thinner and thinner, and it seems likely that he will soon become very ill. One afternoon while walking home from school, however, he spots a dollar bill lying forgotten and partially buried in the snow. He looks around to make sure no one is searching for it, but when no one seems concerned, he decides to take it to buy food. He decides he will spend ten cents on just one single candy bar, and bring the rest home to his family.
He goes to the store and buys a Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight bar, then gobbles it up as soon as he gets it. As he goes to take his nine dimes of change, he realizes that it would not make too much of a difference to buy just one more because the first tasted so good. He does, and begins to tear off the wrapper, but is distracted by a flash of gold beneath it: a Golden Ticket.
The shopkeeper is extremely excited and tells everyone to come look at the Golden Ticket that this little boy found. Charlie is in a daze as people begin to offer to buy the ticket from him. But the shopkeeper pushes everyone away and tells Charlie to run home with the ticket and refuse to let anyone have it. He says he has a feeling that Charlie needed a break like this, and he is glad that he found it. Charlie takes his advice and happily runs right home.
Charlie breathlessly announces to his family what happened, and Grandpa Joe at first believes Charlie is joking. When Charlie shows him the ticket, however, he jumps out of bed for the first time in twenty years and shouts "Yippee!" Charlie shows everyone the ticket and they all admire it. They read the writing on the ticket; it is a note from Mr. Wonka, congratulating the ticket holder and telling him to come to the factory on the first of February. After the visit, he will be sent home in a truck with his lifetime supply of chocolate and candy, and Wonka promises to refill the supply should Charlie ever run out.
They realize the first of February is the following day; Charlie has found the ticket just in time. Since the ticket invited Charlie to take one or two members of his family to the factory with him, Grandpa Joe volunteers to go; they wonder if it is better for Mr. Bucket to go, but Mr. Bucket insists that Grandpa Joe deserves it most of all and is well enough to make it. After this decision, there is a knock at the door, and newspaper reporters and the media swarm in to get the full story.
Morning dawns and it is time to go to the factory. There is a huge crowd outside its gates, but the five famous children who hold Golden Tickets gather at the front with their families. The other four children have all brought both of their parents with them. At promptly ten o'clock, the gates of the factory swing open and Mr. Willy Wonka himself begins to walk toward the crowd.
Charlie's strength through the Buckets' weeks of near starvation is admirable. He faces his family's situation stoically, never complaining, refusing to eat anyone else's food. Though he is clearly suffering, he never lets it show for fear of worrying his family. The dollar he finds in the street after a long two weeks of hunger serves as a reward for his strength and character, and the Golden Ticket inside the candy bar he buys is another optimistic message that good things do come to good people.
Reading about the Buckets' poverty is striking to most readers, since they most likely have not experienced anything like this and usually have no problem getting the things they want, let alone getting food. That a good family like Charlie's can suffer like this puts the world into perspective, and reminds readers to be grateful for what they have. This is a major moral of this story.
However, Charlie's selflessness does falter briefly when he chooses to indulge himself and buy the candy bars rather than bringing the money home to his family. This choice is not meant to detract from his character; that is made very clear, since he gets rewarded for it by finding the ticket. Instead, it reminds readers that Charlie is still a child in spite of the things he has had to go through. This choice makes Charlie seem more real, and reassures readers that the struggles of poverty have not robbed Charlie of his entire childhood. Like any other child, Charlie can indulge in a delicious treat once in a while.
Adults are further portrayed in a bad light through the encounter in the store after Charlie finds the ticket. The other adults crowding the store are quick to try and take advantage of Charlie, offering him sums of money that are far less than what the ticket is actually worth. Unlike Charlie himself, these adults are selfish and manipulative, sensing Charlie's need for money. But Charlie is smart and does not fall for this trick. Just like the other four Golden Ticket winners, these adults are greedy, thinking only of their own desires. This story condemns greed above all other things.
But not all adults are bad; some, like the adults in Charlie's family, have admirable qualities. This is true of the shopkeeper as well, who is an ally to Charlie against those trying to take advantage of him after he finds the Golden Ticket. These few adults have Charlie's best interests in mind.
This part of the story also brings to light the price of fame and attention. These five children have become famous simply by finding Golden Tickets, and yet they are already worldwide celebrities, subject to the same intrusive attention. The media has already disrupted Charlie's life, barging into their household without warning. Furthermore, at the entrance to the factory everyone whispers, points, and makes judgments about these famous children, who must be separated from everyone else by police protection. While no one can deny the benefits of their prize, there are certainly some drawbacks to their fame.