Charlie, the titular protagonist of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is characterized as a “hero” who’s kind, generous, and considerate. He, along with four other children, is lucky enough to find a Golden Ticket in a Wonka chocolate bar, a prize that earns them a tour of Mr. Wonka’s mysterious candy factory. But unlike Charlie, the four other children who find Golden Tickets—Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, and Mike Teavee—each embody a particular vice, such as greed or entitlement. As these four children each get into trouble in the factory and have to end their tours early, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory makes it clear that vice keeps children and adults alike from being functional, well-liked members of society. In this way, the novel functions as a morality tale intended to teach young readers that good things come to those who are kind, well-behaved, and virtuous. Moreover, it shows that being cruel and greedy may help people get ahead in the short term, but that acting this way inevitably leads to disappointment or even tragedy.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory acknowledges that vices like selfishness and entitlement can, in the short term, help a person get ahead. Veruca Salt offers the clearest example of this: she has an entitled attitude, and her parents spoil her to the point that she only has to throw a tantrum and demand something for her parents to get it for her. So, when she demands a Golden Ticket, Mr. Salt (her father) goes out of his way to grant Veruca’s wish. He transforms the factory he owns, where workers shell peanuts, into a candy-unwrapping operation for several days, until one of his employees finally finds a Golden Ticket. This example illustrates two different kinds of entitlement: first, it shows Veruca’s belief that she’s entitled to get what she wants just because she wants it. Second, it shows that her father believes that he, too, can get whatever he wants and can manipulate other people for his own gain (in a way that Charlie’s and his family believe is unfair). But while Veruca is the book’s clearest example of how certain vices can help a person get ahead in the short term, Augustus, Mike, and Violet also exhibit entitlement and greed to lesser degrees. They all find Golden Tickets because their wealth and privilege enable them to buy many candy bars to increase their chances of finding one—a tactic that the novel implies is greedy and unfair, since it puts lower-class children like Charlie (whose family can hardly afford a single candy bar) at a disadvantage. Nevertheless, their strategy does result in each of them finding Golden Tickets, which win them a tour of Mr. Wonka’s factory.
The novel suggests that vices like greed and entitlement inevitably cause harm, as indulging those impulses can create dangerous situations. Except for Charlie, every child who tours Mr. Wonka’s factory suffers some sort of grisly fate. Augustus, for instance, can’t help but “listen to the call of his massive stomach” (which the book implies is a greedy impulse) and ends up falling into the chocolate river—which leads to him almost being made into fudge. And Veruca is so spoiled that when Mr. Wonka insists that she can’t have one of his trained squirrels, she tries to grab one for herself—but the squirrels toss her down the garbage chute instead. Mike and Violet also succumb to their vices—watching television and chewing gum, respectively—and refuse to follow directions regarding some of the more fantastical (and potentially dangerous) inventions in Mr. Wonka’s factory. This leads to Mike being shrunken down to only an inch tall and Violet turning into a massive blueberry. In each of these cases, the child in question decides that their wants and needs are more important than following directions intended to keep them safe. And giving into one’s vice the way these four children do, the novel shows, can put a person in dangerous, life-altering situations.
In contrast, Charlie has traits like generosity, kindness, and politeness, and the novel suggests that good things will come to those who embody these virtues. Early in the story, Charlie’s father, Mr. Bucket, loses his job, and the family no longer has enough food. But Charlie refuses his mother, Mrs. Bucket’s, attempts to give him some of her food, which highlights his selflessness and generosity. Later, during the tour of Mr. Wonka’s factory, Charlie listens carefully to Mr. Wonka and follows directions exactly. Charlie samples candies only if he’s told it’s okay to do so, and he listens to Mr. Wonka’s warnings about treating certain candies or machines with caution. He also grips tightly to his Grandpa Joe’s hand throughout the tour, both literally and figuratively leaning on his grandfather for support and guidance—something that illustrates how much Charlie respects authority. At the end of the tour, when Charlie is the only child left who didn’t get in trouble and have to leave the factory, Mr. Wonka reveals that he conceived of the Golden Tickets and the factory tour so that he could choose a child to run his factory after he’s gone—and Charlie, as the last remaining child, has won that honor. Knowing this, it’s possible to see the entire tour as an event designed to expose children’s vices and weed out those who are selfish, greedy, and spoiled—leaving behind a child like Charlie, who is entirely virtuous. While Charlie’s good fortune at the end of the novel might present an extreme, exaggerated example of the good things that may come to a person who is kind and virtuous, the novel nevertheless encourages young readers to strive to be more like Charlie. They may never inherit a chocolate factory because of their good behavior, but they will be safer and better able to enjoy the world around them.
Vice and Virtue ThemeTracker
Vice and Virtue Quotes in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie felt it worst of all. And although his father and mother often went without their own share of lunch or supper so that they could give it to him, it still wasn’t nearly enough for a growing boy. 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.
The picture showed a nine-year-old boy who was so enormously fat he looked as though he had been blown up with a powerful pump. Great flabby folds of fat bulged out from every part of his body, and his face was like a monstrous ball of dough with two small greedy curranty eyes peering out upon the world.
“Oh, it was terrible! My little Veruca got more and more upset each day, and every time I went home she would scream at me, ‘Where’s my Golden Ticket! I want my Golden Ticket!’ And she would lie there for hours on the floor, kicking and yelling in the most disturbing way. Well, sir, I just hated to see my little girl feeling unhappy like that, so I vowed I would keep up the search until I’d got her what she wanted. Then suddenly… on the evening of the fourth day, one of my women workers yelled, ‘I’ve got it! A Golden Ticket!’” […]
“She needs a real good spanking,” said Grandma Georgina.
“I don’t think the girl’s father played it quite fair, Grandpa, do you?” Charlie murmured.
“He spoils her,” Grandpa Joe said. “And no good can ever come from spoiling a child like that, Charlie, you mark my words.”
“‘And who’s she to criticize, anyway, because if you ask me, I’d say that her jaws are going up and down almost as much as mine are just from yelling at me every minute of the day.’”
“‘Now, Violet,’ Mrs. Beauregarde said from a far corner of the room where she was standing on the piano to avoid being trampled by the mob.
“‘All right, Mother, keep your hair on!’ Miss Beauregarde shouted.”
“That child,” said Grandpa Joe, poking his head up from under the blanket one icy morning, “that child has got to have more food. It doesn’t matter about us. We’re too old to bother with. But a growing boy! He can’t go on like this! He’s beginning to look like a skeleton!”
“What can one do?” murmured Grandma Josephine miserably. “He refuses to take any of ours. I hear his mother tried to slip her own piece of bread onto his plate at breakfast this morning, but he wouldn’t touch it. He made her take it back.”
“He’s a fine fellow,” said Grandpa George. “He deserves better than this.”
The tall bony old figure of Grandpa Joe could be seen standing quietly among them, and beside him, holding tightly on to his hand, was little Charlie Bucket himself.
All the children, except Charlie, had both their mothers and fathers with them, and it was a good thing that they had, otherwise the whole party might have gotten out of hand. They were so eager to get going that their parents were having to hold them back by force to prevent them from climbing over the gates.
“Don’t you think they look pretty? I told you I hated ugliness! And of course they are all eatable! All made of something different and delicious! And do you like my meadows? Do you like my grass and my buttercups? The grass you are standing on, my dear little ones, is made of a new kind of soft, minty sugar that I’ve just invented! I call it swudge! Try a blade! Please do! It’s delectable!”
Automatically, everybody bent down and picked one blade of grass—everybody, that is, except Augustus Gloop, who took a big handful.
“Daddy!” shouted Veruca Salt (the girl who got everything she wanted). “Daddy! I want an Oompa-Loompa! I want you to get me an Oompa-Loompa! I want an Oompa-Loompa right away! I want to take it home with me! Go on, Daddy! Get me an Oompa-Loompa!”
“Now, now, my pet!” Her father said to her, “we mustn’t interrupt Mr. Wonka.”
“But I want an Oompa-Loompa!” screamed Veruca.
“All right, Veruca, all right. But I can’t get it for you this second. Please be patient. I’ll see you have one before the day is out.”
Augustus Gloop, as you might have guessed, had quietly sneaked down to the edge of the river, and he was now kneeling on the riverbank, scooping hot melted chocolate into his mouth as fast as he could.
“I want the gum!” Violet said obstinately. “What’s so silly?”
“I would rather you didn’t take it,” Mr. Wonka told her gently. “You see, I haven’t got it quite right yet. There are still one or two things….”
“Oh, to heck with that!” said Violet, and suddenly, before Mr. Wonka could stop her, she shot out a fat hand and grabbed the stick of gum out of the little drawer and popped it into her mouth. At once, her huge well-trained jaws started chewing away on it like a pair of tongs.
Her body was swelling up and changing shape at such a rate that within a minute it had turned into nothing less than an enormous round blue ball—a gigantic blueberry, in fact—and all that remained of Violet Beauregarde herself was a tiny pair of legs and a tiny pair of arms sticking out of the great round fruit and a little head on top.
“It always happens like that,” sighed Mr. Wonka. “I’ve tried it twenty times in the Testing Room on twenty Oompa-Loompas, and every one of them finished up as a blueberry. It’s most annoying. I just can’t understand it.”
For though she’s spoiled, and dreadfully so,
A girl can’t spoil herself, you know.
Who spoiled her, then? Ah, who indeed?
Who pandered to her every need?
Who turned her into such a brat?
Who are the culprits? Who did that?
Alas! You needn’t look so far
To find out who these sinners are.
They are (and this is very sad)
Her loving parents, MUM and DAD.
And that is why we’re glad they fell
Into the garbage chute as well.
“Mind you, there are thousands of clever men who would give anything for the chance to come in and take over from me, but I don’t want that sort of person. I don’t want a grown-up person at all. A grownup won’t listen to me; he won’t learn. He will try to do things his own way and not mine. So I have to have a child. I want a good sensible loving child, one to whom I can tell all my most precious candy-making secrets—while I am still alive.”