Throughout his book, Roald Dahl contrasts physical wealth to parental passion as an important condition for happiness. Any parent can give love to the child, while wealth, in fact, can make a person indifferent. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory shows how wealth can be more dangerous than even the most extreme poverty. In the following essay, I contrast the characters of Charlie Bucket, Violet Beauregarde, and Veruca Salt to demonstrate that Roald Dahl upholds poverty as more virtuous than wealth.
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Charlie is the protagonist of the story and exhibits arguably the most virtuous set of traits. He is pure in his heart. The boy is so innocent that the reader even gets the impression that such people do not exist in nature. He is not the kind of child who would complain about his poverty. He treasures his birthday present (a bar of chocolate). His purity can be seen in his interaction with his grandparents, as “his questions are addressed to find out about the factory, never about his own existence or the circumstances that surround him” (León). The image of this cute boy is created specifically to show people how they need to endure in order to be happy, lucky, and eventually get some material prosperity. Dahl intentionally describes Bucket’s house as uncomfortable, where “cold drafts blew across the floor all night long, and it was awful,” rendering the house inappropriate for severe seasonal conditions. (Dahl 5). As a reader, I felt sorry and bitter for the whole family. Yes, the house is in bad shape. Nevertheless, despite the enormous amount of difficulties encountered by Charlie and his family daily, they remain caring, supportive, and don’t lose their humane traits.
This shows that poverty, while challenging, cannot strip people from their virtues or take away their joy. For example, it does not stop Charlie from dreaming, despite being described as entering the factory “with a horrible empty feeling in their tummies… Charlie felt it worst of all… He desperately wanted something more filling and satisfying than cabbage and cabbage soup. The one thing he longed for more than anything else was chocolate” (Dahl 4).
This is the most positive aspect of poverty. Only people who are experiencing misfortune can understand the grief of others, even the grief of a spoiled soul. Only such individuals can be grateful for what they have. Charlie grew up in a house where these important values were preserved. Therefore, he probably is the happiest child in the world.
Roald Dahl does not allow the reader to forget that the main character – Charlie – is poor. Moreover, the author constantly reminds how poor his family is. Their poverty forces the reader to sympathize with him, especially considering the fact that the other children are very rich. For instance, Dahl points out that for Charlie only one thing as important – that his family has something to eat. Neither money nor TV nor chewing gum is important to him. More importantly, it is poverty that evoked this nobility in his soul. The same can be said about his relatives. Indeed, in this case, poverty has not made Charlie and his family offended, angry, and hopeless. Poverty has given them strength to fight for something better. The effect goes beyond material wealth. In this case, it gave Charlie faith in miracles: “But there was one other thing that the grown-ups also knew, and it was this: that however small the chance might be of striking lucky, the chance is there. The chance had to be there” (Dahl 27-28).
In stark contrast, most of other kids present in the book are of a higher class. However, their wealth seems to have a detrimental effect on their upbringing, habits, and behavior. The brightest example is Veruca Salt, portrayed as an embodiment of richness. She is a daughter of incredibly rich parents and displays all traits of luxurious lifestyle, such as driving an expensive car and wearing clothes which suggest excessive wealth. Dahl constantly uses epithets which suggest grandeur for her description. For example, her residence is a mansion located in “a great city far away,” which implies some outstanding qualities (Dahl 17). However, her richness is accompanied with a set of prominent vices. Veruca is a bad-tempered, capricious, and impatient character. She constantly offends other children and does not miss an opportunity to demonstrate how rich she is. Most importantly, she is desperate in obtaining what she wants – but only through her father’s money. Most prominently, this can be seen in a way she gets the golden ticket. While the possession of the ticket is meant to be a matter of lucky chance, Veruca gets one as a result of her father’s enormous wealth and determination to provide her with it.
Essentially, he uses his money to raise her chances of finding a ticket by buying incredible amounts of chocolate bars. What’s more, he asks workers employed on his factory to help him unwrap the bars he bought instead of performing their tasks, which likely costs him dearly in the end. While this can be considered a manifestation of parental care (in fact, Charlie suggests that Veruca’s father does it because he loves her), it has a far greater adverse effect. Veruca shows little concern for her parents’ needs and is very offensive until she gets what she desires. On some occasions, she resorts to violence, hitting and pushing her father to persuade him to comply. In essence, while on some occasions he grants her wishes because he admires his daughter, at least on some occasions he capitulates after being tormented with her screams. Essentially, money in the case of Veruca Salt is the ultimate way to fulfill her wishes. In each case, she has no need of making an effort – she just needs to persuade her father to pay for her caprice. Eventually, she puts her interests above those of her family and reacts aggressively when this priority is challenged. In addition, she loses the sense of gratitude for the things her parents do for her. In the brightest example, upon receiving the golden ticket from her father, she immediately asks for another pony instead of thanking him (Dahl 17).
Dahl also draws a connection between enormous wealth and the absence of parental responsibility. Similar to Veruca, Mr. Salt shows little effort to improve the behavior of his daughter despite obviously suffering from her awful habits. In essence, it is easier for him to “buy himself out” of an uncomfortable situation. Grandpa Joe sums it up in his reply to Charlie by saying “no good can ever come from a child by spoiling her” (Dahl 17). The idea of spoiling a child by irresponsibly granting her access to family riches is echoed in the climactic episode when Oompa-Loompas sing “For though she’s spoiled, and dreadfully so, a girl can’t spoil herself, you know,” and point to the responsible party by continuing “Her loving parents, mum and dad” (Dahl 70). The scene ends in Veruca being thrown down the garbage chute, which acts as a metaphor for vanity which accompanies the rich. Therefore, it can be said that Salt is most prominently impacted by wealth and gets the most disgraceful punishment for it.
Violet Beauregarde demonstrates similar attitude, although on a somewhat lower scale. Violet is portrayed as a highly ambitious and active character, being arguably the only child who obtained her golden ticket as a result of determination and effort. This fact visibly contrasts the approach demonstrated by Veruca, whose ticket was essentially bought. Interestingly, Violet also comes from a family with a far more modest income than Salt’s. Therefore, we already can trace the suggestion by Dahl that excessive wealth is detrimental to the development of ambition. However, Violet remains a negative character, displaying hostility and bad manners towards other children. Most importantly, her competitiveness seems to be focused on several specific tasks rather than consistent throughout her actions.
Simply put, all she is interested in is becoming a champion of gum-chewing contests. In fact, the only thing that can distract her from chewing gum is the search for a golden ticket (Dahl 21). Viewed from this angle, Violet’s determination and resilience look far less impressive. Beauregarde goes after her goal, but her pursuit is not explained by anything more substantial than a stubborn desire. It is likely that if asked about why she wants to win a chewing contest (or why she wanted to find a ticket in the first place), she would likely find no decent answer. In contrast, Charlie sees it as a manifestation of justice, a chance to attain something that is beyond financial capabilities of his family. For Charlie, the factory is the proof of the possibility of a miracle. For Violet, it is an opportunity to engage in the high-stakes contest. This contrast is strengthened by the fact that Beauregarde is obviously wealthier than Charlie yet exhibits far more mundane interests and values.
The fact that the author chose gum as Violet’s area of interest is also characteristic. Unlike sports and other activities which are traditionally perceived as positive, chewing creates the image of a shallow and simplistic character. Due to this, Violet meets her punishment in the form of experimental gum which she chews despite being forbidden to do so by Wonka (Dahl 57). This final act of disobedience underlines her vices and confirms the ignorance and disrespect she has for others.
By analyzing the characters of Charlie, Violet Beauregarde, and Veruca Salt, I can conclude that the former exhibits a number of positive traits related to poverty. He is kind, supportive, compassionate, humble, and caring despite experiencing harsh life conditions. In contrast, Veruca, who is excessively rich, displays ignorance, hostility, and impatience, all of which are resulting from her parents’ negligence and her overindulgence. Finally, Violet, while not being explicitly spoiled by wealth, shows no signs of improvement over Charlie despite being obviously wealthier. Therefore, I can conclude that Dahl upholds poverty as more virtuous than wealth.
Dahl, Roald. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Puffin Books, 2007.
León, Élida. “Constructing a Hero: Stylistic Features of Main Characters Charlie Bucket and Harry Potter.” ResearchGate. 2015, Web.