Charlie Bucket is the protagonist of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and he is the embodiment of all that is virtuous. He is deprived of adequate food, a bed, and any privacy. In spite of all this, he never complains, nor does he ever accept charity from his family when it comes at their own expense. Each morning, Charlie musters the strength to walk to school, even though he nearly freezes during the colder months. And each night, he returns home and dutifully spends time with his bedridden grandparents, a chore that he seems to genuinely enjoy.
Charlie’s physical proportions align with his personality: not only is he quite small and undernourished, but also he is meek. He speaks only when he is spoken to. He never asks for more than he is given. He looks forward to the one time a year, on his birthday, when he can indulge in a Wonka chocolate bar, and instead of wolfing it down all at once, he savors it (bite by bite) for many months. Charlie walks past the world-renowned Wonka chocolate factory twice a day, yet this never causes him bitterness or anger. Instead, Charlie simply indulges in the savory smells coming out of the factory and humbly dreams of entering the factory one day. When the golden tickets start turning up in the hands of nasty, greedy children, Charlie never complains about how unfair it is that he will never get to go. Charlie’s strongest criticism of one of the other children comes when he hears that Veruca’s father is using all the workers in his peanut factory to unwrap chocolate bars night and day until his daughter gets a ticket. Charlie’s only comment is that Veruca’s father is not playing quite fair.
Behind Charlie’s meek and virtuous exterior lies an inner strength and courage. He faces the new challenges and mysteries of the factory with the same bravery he employs to overcome the adversity of his everyday life. He finds all of the adventures in the chocolate factory to be wild and stimulating. While other characters cringe at the speed of the boat as it tears down the chocolate river, Charlie demurely embraces it, clutching to Grandpa Joe’s legs for stability and enjoying the ride of his life.
The eccentric owner of the world-famous Wonka chocolate factory. Along with his eccentric behavior, Mr. Wonka also has a benevolent side. The mystery workers operating his chocolate factory after the reopening are called Oompa-Loompas. The Oompa-Loompas hail from Loompaland, where they are the defenseless prey of hungry creatures like hornswogglers, snozzwangers, and whandoodles until Mr. Wonka rescues them. He brings the malnourished Oompa-Loompas back to his factory where they are allowed to eat their favorite food—cacao beans—in unlimited quantities and live in complete safety in exchange for running the factory. Mr. Wonka treats the Oompa-Loompas like children, and, in return, they treat him as a benevolent caretaker. Mr. Wonka further demonstrates his affinity for children and wariness of adults by choosing a child to take over his factory. The child he seeks is humble, respectful, and willing to run his factory exactly how Mr. Wonka runs it himself.
Though benevolent, Mr. Wonka’s character is not beyond reproach. His treatment of the Oompa-Loompas is paternalistic, and his desire to mold a child into a second version of himself is narcissistic. Furthermore, Mr. Wonka is unwilling to accept anyone’s foibles. He can be extremely demanding and judgmental. The four children who do not win the grand prize clearly disgust Mr. Wonka. He is short with each of them—he acts as if he invited each of them simply to prove the virtuosity of Charlie. The humble and gracious Charlie is everything Mr. Wonka is looking for.
Grandpa Joe is the oldest and wisest of the characters in the novel. However, like Charlie and Mr. Wonka, he remains young at heart. His youthful exuberance makes him the perfect person to escort Charlie to the chocolate factory.Grandpa Joe is also Charlie’s best friend. Every evening when Charlie spends time with his grandparents, Grandpa Joe entertains Charlie with a story. It is Grandpa Joe who initially tells Charlie all about the history of Mr. Wonka and his vaunted chocolate factory, and Grandpa Joe urges Charlie to have faith that he can find a golden ticket.