Next, Mr. Wonka stops in front of the Nut Room. He tells the group to catch their breath and then peer in the window; they can’t go in, or they’ll disturb the squirrels. Charlie is entranced: there are 100 squirrels in the room, sitting around a big table and shelling walnuts. Mike Teavee asks why Mr. Wonka uses squirrels instead of Oompa-Loompas. Mr. Wonka explains that Oompa-Loompas can’t get walnuts out in one piece; it’s a difficult job, and only squirrels can do it. He explains that the squirrels also check for “bad nuts” (they sound hollow when tapped). He points to one squirrel, which throws a nut down the garbage chute.
Just as before, Mr. Wonka gives clear instructions—for people to look at the squirrels and not go into the Nut Room. But given that Augustus and Violet previously disobeyed Mr. Wonka’s rules, it seems likely that another child is going to disobey and get into trouble. The fact that Mr. Wonka uses trained squirrels for this task is absurd and silly—but the comparison between the squirrels and the Oompa-Loompas is disturbing. The squirrels are, of course, animals, and yet they seem to be held in higher regard than the human beings who do most of the work in the factory.
Veruca Salt shouts to Mrs. Salt that she wants one of Mr. Wonka’s squirrels; the pets she has at home aren’t enough. Mrs. Salt assures Veruca she can have one later, but Veruca says she wants a trained squirrel. Mr. Salt steps up, pulls out his wallet, and asks Mr. Wonka what he wants for a squirrel. Mr. Wonka says simply that they’re not for sale—Veruca can’t have one. At this, Veruca opens the door and rushes into the Nut Room.
It becomes even clearer how little respect and humanity the Oompa-Loompas have when Veruca shouts that she wants a squirrel, just like she wanted an Oompa-Loompa in the chocolate room. This dehumanizes the Oompa-Loompas, as Veruca doesn’t seem to think that they’re any worthier of freedom or agency than a pet squirrel. Her demands and disobedience also illustrate how spoiled and selfish Veruca is. Mr. Salt, meanwhile, shows that he expects people to do whatever he wants them to, and to be able to simply pay for it—so it’s a shock when Mr. Wonka refuses to sell him a squirrel.
The squirrels stop shelling walnuts and stare at Veruca. Veruca stops and stares back. Then, as Veruca reaches for a squirrel near her, all the squirrels in the room leap for her. They pin her to the ground, and then one squirrel starts tapping Veruca’s head. Mrs. Salt screams, but Mr. Wonka says the squirrels are testing to see if Veruca is a bad nut. Suddenly, the squirrels start to pull Veruca across the floor—Mr. Wonka sighs that she’s a bad nut and so will go down the garbage chute. Veruca disappears.
The squirrels’ test on Veruca is absurd—but again, the novel implies that Veruca is an antagonist because she’s so spoiled. So, Veruca learns here that she can’t control everything in Mr. Wonka’s factory, and that nothing is as it seems. Indeed, by not showing the squirrels respect, she ends up getting tossed down the garbage chute—yet another lesson that weeds out a greedy, selfish child.
Shrieking, Mrs. Salt asks where Veruca went. Mr. Wonka explains that that chute leads to the main garbage pipe, which in turn leads to the incinerator. Mrs. Salt screams as Mr. Wonka assures her that there’s a chance the Oompa-Loompas won’t light it today. Mrs. Salt yells that this has gone too far, and Mr. Salt says that this is ridiculous and that he’s “cross.” Mr. Wonka assures him that Veruca will be fine—and she might even still be stuck just below the entrance hole. At this, both Mr. and Mrs. Salt race into the Nut Room and look down the chute. As they bend over, the squirrels give first Mrs. Salt and then Mr. Salt a push.
By innocently suggesting that the Oompa-Loompas might not light the incinerator today, Mr. Wonka shows that he takes things as they come. Furthermore, he doesn’t much care about Veruca. Mr. Salt’s “cross” feelings are humorously underwhelming here, given that his daughter’s life is at risk. His attitude shows again that wealth doesn’t guarantee a happy, loyal family.
Charlie is worried and asks what’s going to happen to the Salts. Mr. Wonka assures him that someone will catch them, and the incinerator might not be lit today. They could get lucky. Grandpa Joe shushes everyone; the Oompa-Loompas are singing again. They sing about all the new “friends” that Veruca will meet in the garbage chute, like fish heads and rotting fruit. This is her punishment for being so rude and greedy. But they ask if it’s fair to blame Veruca for her rudeness, since “a girl can’t spoil herself.” Rather, her parents are the ones at fault—they turned her into a “brat.” This is why the Oompa-Loompas are glad that Mrs. Salt and Mr. Salt fell down the garbage chute, too.
Charlie demonstrates how kind and caring he is by expressing concern for Veruca. It doesn’t matter to him that she was rude and selfish—he still doesn’t think she deserves to die in the incinerator. The Oompa-Loompas, meanwhile, back up what Charlie’s grandparents have been saying throughout the novel: that it’s a parent’s responsibility to step in and correct their children when they misbehave. Parents, in other words, can create “brats” like Veruca—or they can create good, virtuous kids like Charlie.