Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

by: Roald Dahl

Motifs

Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

Vice

In the moral world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there is no ambiguity: children are either bad or good. Charlie is good precisely because he has no discernable vices. The bad children are easy to spot because they are the embodiment of their vices. Augustus is greedy, Veruca is bratty, Violet is an obsessive gum chewer, and Mike is obsessed with television. By creating vices for each of the children, Dahl makes it clear from the outset that these children are bad. In doing so, he makes Charlie all the more obvious as the hero of his story.

Punishment

Punishment is used to underscore the moral code in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Good children are dutiful and respectful, whereas bad children are the opposite. It is not a bad child’s fault that he is bad—his parents are largely to blame. However, bad children must be reformed through whatever means necessary. Indeed, the necessary means take the form of wild and sometimes violent punishments. Punishments are necessary to create good out of bad, which is a moral imperative within this story. In this story, the proper punishment is the only thing that can transform a bad child into a good one.

Absurdity

Dahl regularly employs absurd language and ideas. Some of these absurdities are hair-growing candy for children, square candies that look ’round, and edible pillows. All of these demand a suspension of disbelief from the reader. In the story, the children who cannot suspend their disbelief fall into disfavor with Mr. Wonka. By being able to suspend disbelief, the reader can align himself with Mr. Wonka and Charlie. A reader might agree with Mike Teavee that children do not need to worry about going bald. But the same reader can enjoy watching Mr. Wonka dismiss Mike and champion Charlie. These absurdities also entertain young readers and push their intellectual capacities.