In September, 1964, Alfred A. Knoff published what rapidly became one of the best-loved children’s books of the twentieth century, British author Roald Dahl’s children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dahl’s second children’s novel. His first, James and the Giant Peach, was published in 1961. Charlie and the Chocolate Factorywas successful despite the publication in 1964 of other children’s books that would become popular as well. These included Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Emily Neville’s It’s Like This, Cat, and Maia Wojciechowska’s Shadow of a Bull, among others.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was written to entertain Dahl’s disabled son Theo, was a phenomenal commercial success. Critic Elaine Moss wrote in The New York Times Book Review that the work “is the funniest children’s book I have read in years; not just funny but shot through with a zany pathos that touches the young heart.” The Chinese edition included the largest number of printings of any book at the time.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was illustrated by Joseph Schindelman. Schindelman was later replaced by Quentin Blake. Dahl’s book agent was Ann Watkins, who had represented Dahl in his earlier work and who would remain his representative throughout the rest of his career.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tells the story of an impoverished child, Charlie Bucket, who lives with his parents and four grandparents, and who is allowed to buy a candy bar once each year on his birthday. One day Charlie uses money found in the street to buy a candy bar and in doing so wins a trip to the candy bar’s manufacturer, the factory of Willy Wonka, an eccentric town figure who has not been seen in years.
Entering the factory with five other children, their guardians, and his Grandpa Joe, Charlie finds himself transported into a magical place that makes fantastic candies. The factory is staffed by Oompa-Loompas, tiny workers who ingest only cacao beans and who Wonka has imported to keep his secrecy and protect his ideas from other candy manufacturers. Each room of the factory is dedicated to a specific job.
As the book progresses, the other visiting children give in to their impulses and are removed from the story: Augustus Gloop falls into a river of chocolate while attempting to drink from it; Veruca Salt is dragged away by squirrels who deem her “a bad nut” and throw her down a garbage chute; Violet Beauregarde turns into a blueberry and is taken away to be...