The weather becomes extremely cold over the next two weeks. It begins to snow one morning, and by the evening, it’s four feet deep. Then, a freezing wind starts to blow. Whenever Charlie steps outside, the wind feels like a knife. It’s hard to escape the wind inside, too: it sneaks in the doors and windows, and Charlie’s grandparents struggle to keep warm. Nobody in the Bucket family cares about the Golden Tickets anymore—they only care about staying warm and having enough to eat.
This passage illustrates some of the consequences of the Bucket family’s poverty: they’re so poor that they simply can’t afford to stay warm and well-fed. And in light of this, something like a Golden Ticket suddenly becomes frivolous and totally unnecessary—survival is now the most important thing.
When it’s cold, people naturally become hungrier; it’s normal to crave rich stews and other warming dishes. Most people are luckier than they think, and they get those dishes. But Charlie and his family are too poor to afford warm food, so as the weather gets colder and nastier, Charlie gets hungrier. Then, suddenly, things get even worse for the Buckets. Mr. Bucket loses his job when the toothpaste factory has to close, and he’s unable to find another job. He shovels snow for people in the streets, but the pennies he earns aren’t enough to buy food for his family. Slowly, the entire Bucket family starts to starve.
Here, the narrator addresses the reader directly to help them develop empathy for Charlie and his family. This also subtly encourages readers to be grateful for what they have—thereby helping them become more virtuous and thankful, like Charlie. And notably, the novel never shies away from showing just how damaging and dangerous poverty can be. The family is starving, which shows how high the stakes are for the Buckets.
Charlie still passes Mr. Wonka’s chocolate factory on his way to school every day. He always lifts his head to sniff the chocolate and often spends a few minutes sniffing. As Grandpa Joe watches Charlie sniff the chocolate one morning, he announces that Charlie needs more food because he’s a growing boy. Grandma Josephine frets that Mrs. Bucket tried to give Charlie extra bread this morning, but Charlie refused to take it. Grandpa George notes that Charlie deserves better.
Now that Charlie is hungrier than usual, the chocolate smell from the factory is even more tantalizing. This builds up suspense, as it seems even less likely now that Charlie is going to get to tour the factory. Charlie refusing Mrs. Bucket’s bread shows how virtuous he is—now, he’s giving up extra food, even when he’s literally starving.
The cold weather continues, and Charlie grows increasingly thinner. Soon, the bones of his face stick out. Like many children who go through hardships like this, Charlie starts to change his behavior to conserve his strength, such as staying inside during recess and walking slowly, never running. But one afternoon, as Charlie walks home after school, he stops suddenly. There’s a piece of green paper in the gutter—it’s a dollar bill.
Again, the novel doesn’t sugarcoat the effect that poverty has on Charlie: he’s growing thinner and has to change his habits to preserve his limited strength and energy. But Charlie’s luck also changes in an instant when he finds this dollar bill.
The way the dollar is partially buried makes Charlie think that someone didn’t just drop it. Passersby aren’t searching for money—Charlie can keep it. Charlie picks it up, knowing that this can buy his family food. He decides to buy one candy bar at the nearest shop and then give the rest of the money to Mrs. Bucket.
Charlie’s reaction to finding the money is yet another example of how generous and thoughtful he is. Though he’s starving and could use the dollar to buy food, he wants to make sure that someone else didn’t drop it; he doesn’t want it if it’s not rightfully his. And though he’s going to treat himself, he’s going to use the rest of the money to feed his family—a selfless and mature impulse, given Charlie’s young age.