Every night, after Charlie finishes his cabbage soup supper, he goes to listen to his grandparents tell stories. Each of his grandparents is over the age of 90, shriveled, and bony. They spend their days huddled in bed with nothing to do—but once Charlie comes in and greets them, they all perk up and smile. They love their little grandson and look forward to their evenings with him all day long. Often, Mr. Bucket and Mrs. Bucket stand in the doorway and listen to their parents’ stories. For the half hour every night that the family is all together sharing stories, they can all forget that they’re poor and hungry.
Being together as a family is very important to the Buckets, particularly the grandparents. It seems that the way they contribute to the family is by providing stories, which function as a form of escapism. This allows the family to focus on something other than their struggles. The grandparents’ reaction to Charlie’s arrival in their room each evening shows that to them, Charlie represents the future—and their stories are a way of inspiring him to survive the hardship that they’re all experiencing.
One night, Charlie asks his grandparents if it’s true that Mr. Wonka’s chocolate factory is the biggest in the world, and if Mr. Wonka is the cleverest chocolate maker ever. All four grandparents insist that these things are true. Grandpa Joe, though, sits up in bed and insists that everyone knows that Mr. Wonka is the greatest, most extraordinary chocolate maker ever. He says that Mr. Wonka is a “magician” and can make anything he wants.
The way that Grandpa Joe describes Mr. Wonka suggests that Wonka is, at least to outsiders, something of a magician. He’s not only creating “extraordinary” confections; he’s doing so primarily out of chocolate, something that the novel associates with luxury. This makes stories about Mr. Wonka all the more exciting for young Charlie, as they’re a source of wonder and escapism.
Grandpa Joe asks if he really hasn’t told Charlie about Willy Wonka’s factory. He hasn’t, so Charlie asks him about it. Grandpa Joe is the oldest grandparent at 96 and a half (which is almost as old as people can be). He’s frail and weak, but whenever Charlie’s around, Grandpa Joe seems to become young again.
Being around young children, the novel seems to imply, can help a person hold onto their youth. It’s significant that the elderly Grandpa Joe seems to become young again when he’s with Charlie. This suggests that Charlie and Grandpa Joe have a special relationship, and that Charlie’s ability to look at the world with wonder has the ability to help others do the same.
With excitement, Grandpa Joe says that Mr. Wonka has invented more than 200 new candy bars and sent them all over the world. Kings and presidents eat them. But he doesn’t just make candy bars: he’s also made ice cream that doesn’t melt outside of a freezer. Charlie insists that this is impossible, and Grandpa Joe doesn’t argue—but nevertheless, it’s true. The other grandparents nod in agreement.
Grandpa Joe emphasizes that Mr. Wonka makes his candies for very powerful people. This solidifies the idea that chocolate is associated with wealth and luxury. Though Charlie insists that ice cream that doesn’t melt is impossible, Grandpa Joe proposes that it’s not worth it trying to ask too many questions about whether or not that’s true. Instead, people should simply accept and enjoy things that seem wonderous or outlandish.
In addition, Grandpa Joe says, Mr. Wonka has made violet-flavored marshmallows, caramels that change colors, and chewing gum that never loses its shape. He makes blue birds’ eggs that, when sucked, eventually reveal a tiny sugar bird. Charlie and Grandpa Joe’s mouths water talking about all the sweets, but Charlie wants his grandfather to tell him more. As the stories continue, Grandma Josephine tells her husband to tell Charlie about “that crazy Indian prince.”
Because the Buckets are so poor, talking about these fantastical sweets provides wonderful escapism for Grandpa Joe and Charlie. The candies may be real, but because the family has no hope of ever being able to afford such luxuries, they might as well be totally fictional. But this doesn’t negate their value: they’re still entertaining and enjoyable, even as nothing more than stories.