Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Chapters 23 and 24
As the group huddles around a door, Grandpa Joe lifts Charlie up to see into the room containing the square candies that look ’round. Charlie sees tables full of candies that look like sugar cubes, except that every cube has a face painted on each of its sides. The Oompa-Loompas in the room are painting more faces. Mr. Wonka announces that these are his square candies that look ‘round. Mike Teavee says that the candies don’t look round to him. Veruca says they look square. Veruca and Mr. Wonka argue about whether the candies look round or square. Finally Mrs. Salt tells Veruca not to listen to Mr. Wonka because he is clearly lying. Mr. Wonka calls Mrs. Salt an old fish and tells her to go boil her head. Mr. Salt is outraged, but Mr. Wonka tells him to shut up. With an exaggerated gesture, Mr. Wonka unlocks and opens the door. All of the faces on all of the cubes turn around to look at the crowd. Mr. Wonka asserts that all the square candies are looking “’round.” Grandpa Joe agrees with Mr. Wonka.
The group leaves the room and passes another in the hallway called BUTTERSCOTCH and BUTTERGIN. Mr. Salt likes the look of the room. Mr. Wonka explains that the “scotch” and gin make the Oompa-Loompas giddy. He stops the group to listen, and behind the door they hear wild laughing and singing. Mr. Wonka explains that they are drunk on butterscotch and soda, but they also like buttergin and tonic. Mr. Wonka accelerates the pace. Mrs. Salt, a fat woman with short legs, has trouble keeping up. She looks like a tired rhinoceros. She asks Mr. Wonka to slow down, but he refuses, saying they will run out of time. Veruca wants to know where they are going next. Mr. Wonka tells her to be patient.
Mr. Wonka stops the group in front of the nut room. He tells everyone to look inside but not to enter or disturb the squirrels. The children crowd around the door and gasp at seeing one hundred squirrels sitting on stools around a large table, furiously shelling walnuts. Mr. Wonka explains that the squirrels are specially trained for shelling walnuts. Mike Teavee asks Mr. Wonka why he uses squirrels instead of Oompa-Loompas. Mr. Wonka explains that only squirrels can shell walnuts without breaking them, and, furthermore, they can discern a bad nut from a good one. They do not bother shelling the bad nuts, which they throw down the garbage chute. He points to a squirrel throwing away a bad nut.
While everyone watches the squirrels in action, Veruca tells her mother she wants one. Mrs. Salt tells Veruca that she cannot have one because they all belong to Mr. Wonka. But she tells Veruca that she will get her a squirrel as soon as possible. Veruca demands one of Mr. Wonka’s trained squirrels. Mr. Salt makes Mr. Wonka an offer for a squirrel, but Mr. Wonka refuses to sell a single one. Veruca rushes into the room to grab one. Mr. Wonka yells for her not to go into the room but it is too late. The squirrels all turn and look at Veruca. As she reaches to grab one, all of the squirrels suddenly pounce on Veruca and knock her on her head. They drag a resistant Veruca toward the garbage chute. Mr. Wonka announces that Veruca must be a bad nut.
Veruca struggles to no avail and the squirrels pitch her into the chute, where she tumbles down and out of sight. Mrs. Salt demands to know where her daughter is going. Mr. Wonka explains that the chute containing Veruca eventually goes to the incinerator. Mrs. Salt screams. Mr. Wonka reassures her that the incinerator might not be lit that day. Mr. Salt tells Mr. Wonka he has gone too far. Mr. Wonka tells Mr. Salt not to be mad, explaining that Veruca might be stuck in the chute. The Salts burst into the squirrel room and peer down into the shoot. The squirrels shove them down the chute too. Very concerned, Charlie asks Mr. Wonka what will happen. Mr. Wonka tells Charlie that things will probably be fine. Grandpa Joe interrupts to make everyone listen to the next Oompa-Loompa song. The song is about Veruca. It says that she is in garbage because she is spoiled, and that her parents are to blame and therefore they deserve to go down the chute too.
By this point, everyone is beginning to tire of Mr. Wonka’s antics except Charlie and Grandpa Joe. In the exchange about candies that look ‘round, both Mike and Veruca contradict Mr. Wonka. Mr. Wonka assures the children that they are wrong even though he knows they are misconstruing “round” when he actually means “around.” During this time, Charlie does not say anything contrary to Mr. Wonka’s assertions. As the other children and their parents continue to disagree with Mr. Wonka, he grows incensed. Charlie and Grandpa Joe agree with Mr. Wonka’s assertions, which further separates them from the others. Another example of the same type of word play occurs when the group passes the room with butterscotch and buttergin. These jokes are more immediately obvious to adults, but through contextual clues they make sense to children as well.
Mr. Wonka foreshadows Mrs. Salt’s demise when he tells her she is a fish and should boil her head. When Mrs. Salt follows Veruca down the garbage chute, she mingles with trash, including boiled fish heads. Another instance of foreshadowing occurs when Veruca impatiently demands a trained squirrel. It is these very squirrels who will deem her a bad nut and send her down the garbage chute. Mr. Wonka’s joke about the incinerator can be read in one of two ways: either he is certain that the incinerator is off, or he does not care if Veruca dies. In spite of his seeming indifference, it seems unlikely that Mr. Wonka would condemn Veruca to death. Because he is certain that everything will work out, the reader can assume that Veruca (and the others) will survive. Charlie’s concern for Veruca continues to distinguish him from the others. Ostensibly, Charlie has no reason to fear for Veruca’s safety. She has never been nice to him, and, in fact, she has never even engaged him in conversation. But Charlie is a truly caring person. Mr. Wonka’s certainty that everything will turn out fine is enough to satisfy Charlie, who trusts him completely.
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