The macbre world of Dahl

Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

First published in Sharon's View

CHARLIE Bucket’s Grandpa Joe always seemed a bit of a dodgy character. Maybe he should have drowned in chocolate in Willie Wonka’s factory.

He spent years in bed with Charlie’s other three grandparents, unable to get up, or contribute to the family fortunes, as they all tottered ever nearer to starvation.

Then just when Charlie was desperate to get his hands on a winning golden ticket, Grandpa Joe finds a secret hoard of dosh under the pillow and gives him money to buy chocolate. Why didn’t he divvy up for a few pints of milk when the family was turning into skeletons?

When Charlie wins, Grandpa Joe is remarkably reborn, dances a jig and skips off to the chocolate factory with Charlie.

Definitely dubious.

But then most of what Roald Dahl writes is in a macabre world. It’s why children love him.

It’s 50 years on Thursday since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published. Even under the great Harry Potter onslaught, Dahl kept his popularity because in his fantasies, he described a scary world that children recognised.

His happy endings are never really happy. Think of the little boy in The Witches – turned into a mouse and doomed to live for just a few years with his ancient granny.

To celebrate the 50 years, Penguin have issued a new edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in its Modern Classics series with a cover that’s causing a lot of controversy. It’s a young girl in full make up.

Critics have likened it to Lolita and accused Penguin of pandering to paedophiles.

It’s creepy and unsettling and vaguely dangerous.

Sounds perfect for Roald Dahl.


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