Charlie Bucket is an angelic boy who lives with his parents and grandparents in a small hovel. When Willy Wonka, a reclusive businessman, announces a competition to allow five lucky children into his chocolate factory, Charlie wins one of the places against high odds.The other four children turn out to be deeply unpleasant: Augustus Gloop is a glutton, Veruca Salt is a Spoiled Brat, Mike Teavee is obsessed with violent TV and Violet Beauregarde is a rude, pushy compulsive gum-chewer - utterly obsessed with winning. Willy Wonka himself proves to be an eccentric inventor, obsessed with confectionery.The five children tour the factory, a wonderland of bizarre and improbable inventions, but one by one the children suffer almost lethal karmic fates, each underscored by a moralising Crowd Song from Wonka's Oompa-Loompas. When only Charlie is left, Wonka reveals he was actually looking for an heir.Perhaps Roald Dahl's best-known work, this book is an excellent example of Adaptation Overdosed, ranging from a non-musical stage play and a BBC radio play to a theme park ride. The following adaptations warrant their own pages:
The novel has a sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, in which the elevator shoots into space, Wonka stops an invasion by shapeshifting aliens, and the grandparents get into trouble with a de-aging potion. Unfortunately, Dahl was so disgusted at how the 1971 film turned out that he forbade any adaptations of the sequel (aside from a stage play).This story — particularly the 1971 adaptation — is a stock parody: Charlie and the Chocolate Parody. It is also the Trope Namer for The Wonka: An eccentric authority figure whose success comes from their quirkiness (rather than in spite of it).
Author Tract: Four kids are punished for their flaws, and the one perfect kid inherits a huge chocolate factory. Whilst no one would deny that Veruca Salt's brattishness probably got her what she deserved, obesity, gum-chewing and TV addiction (particularly the latter) are more personal bugbears of Dahl's. You could argue that these habits are symptoms of the kids' general Jerkass behaviour which, as Dahl also points out, is indulged by their parents.
Big Labyrinthine Building: The factory; it has hundreds upon hundreds of rooms and corridors and it's clear that between the novel and its sequel the visitors are only privy to a tiny fraction of them thus far.
Billions of Buttons: The Great Glass Elevator is lined with buttons, with one for every room of the massive factory and others serving other functions (such as the notorious "Up and Out").
Bowdlerise / Orwellian Retcon: The original Oompa-Loompas were black and specifically mentioned to be from Darkest Africa. After numerous people pointed out the Unfortunate Implications of Willy Wonka as a slave owner, later printings changed them to the white and somewhat hippie-ish inhabitants of Loompaland to make the concept less overtly racist. Adaptations have gone in a variety of directions to visualize the Oompa-Loompas, but all reflect the revised version of their origins. (Additionally, regarding the latter trope, the character of Veruca Salt was originally known as Veruca Cruz.)
Crapsaccharine World / False Utopia: One of the few positive portrayals of these settings. A mostly cheerful and happy-looking candy factory with dancing Oompa-Loompas who teach children important values but at the same time these children are taught these values in ways that could (and in at least one adaptationdo) bring upon their deaths, which would mean that they never truly have a chance to learn from their mistakes. The way Wonka nonchalantly describes these events adds to the atmosphere. In the 1971 film adaptation, sheer luck spares Charlie and Grandpa Joe from what would be the most gruesome death of the bunch. Also, the Oompa-Loompas are only paid in cacao beans and/or chocolate. Despite that, the Wonka factory is portrayed in an overall positive manner as a land of wonder and imagination in contrast to the grim outside world...which is full of nasty, foolish, rude, conniving people who seem to get all the breaks in life and feel themselves to be above the rules while the sweet, selfless, rule-following people tend to finish last.
Cultural Translation: Certain terms used in the original U.K. text are changed in U.S. editions: a fifty-pence piece becomes a dollar bill, the Square Sweets That Look Round become Candies, the Great Glass Lift becomes the Great Glass Elevator, etc. This had an interesting effect on the sequel, which was released in the U.S. first and specifically locates Charlie's hometown and the factory to that country. The U.K. edition has extra dialogue added to the opening chapter to cover for the book using elevator in place of lift. (Wonka explains that now that the lift is in orbit, elevator is a better term for it.)
Daddy's Girl: Veruca Salt, whose doting parents (but especially her father) made her into a little monster.
Developing Doomed Characters: One reason the story doesn't actually get to the factory until a third of the way in is because it's establishing so many characters, including the four brats.
Disproportionate Retribution: What happens to most of the kids qualifies. Their punishments are brought on by their flaws, but are still rather excessive. Even though they all live and recover to some extent, they have some unpleasant permanent changes. Violet, for example, is no longer inflated, but is still blue. Just for chewing gum. (Of course, that sort of thing is common in Dahl's works; some would say they get off easy compared to what happens to the villains in some of his other books.)
Elevator Gag: The Great Glass Elevator can go sideways as well as up and down to reach any room in the factory — and can even fly through the air if one presses a certain button. This isn't even getting into what it's capable of in the sequel.
Fairy Tale: Albeit one based on mad science rather than magic.
Fat Bastard: Augustus Gloop. Veruca's mother Angina isn't much better.
Food Pills: The three-course-dinner chewing gum is a variant. It does manage to avoid the conventional problems with food in pill form — it's clear Wonka thought both of the psychological need to do something resembling eating over a period of time and of the physical need for stomach fullness. He's just not through with the new set of problems created by the solution...
Impossibly Delicious Food: Willy Wonka's candies have a reputation for being the best in the world, hence his rivals sending in spies to steal the recipes for them. This was what forced him to become a Reclusive Artist.
Indestructible Edible: Exaggerated with Everlasting Gobstoppers. Developed "for children with very little pocket money", these candies are designed to never grow smaller no longer how long one sucks upon them.
It Runs on Nonsensoleum: Virtually all of the processes in Wonka's factory: "If television breaks an image down into little bits and sends them through the air, why not a bar of chocolate?" Then again, Wonka's nonsense explanations are usually for the benefit of the candidate children, most of whom he doesn't trust at all.
"Just Joking" Justification: Wonka gives this to Mrs. Gloop when she takes offense to his apparently being more concerned with his fudge than her son, and also gives it on behalf of the Oompa-Loompas after their song about Augustus. When Charlie asks Grandpa Joe if they really are joking, he replies that he hopes they are...
Karma Houdini: What exactly did Veruca Salt get compared to the other kids? The scare of her life, and very dirty, but compared to the fate of the others (Slimmed down, stretched out, turned purple) she really didn't get what she deserved to be easily the worst of the kids, just something a bath would fix.
A bath and an extensive therapy course. Consider the scene: she is forcibly held down (by squirrels, whom she before found "adorable") for quite some time, touched on shoulder and face while helpless, has her head patted to determine whether she is "good nut" (possibly with the thought that if yes, the squirels will attempt to crack her head), and then thrown down the chute. Does This Remind You of Anything? Such an experience can scar someone permanently. Especially someone who never before ran into any bad situations.
Also consider that she fell into the oven, and must have thought "Oh Crap, I will be burned now!". Psychic trauma is all but guaranteed after such experience.
Also note that when the news of Charlie's getting the factory gets out, the other parents will be devastated by their children losing out, and the kids will have to live with that for the rest of their lives. Veruca's father has his own factory.
In her case, it was really more her parents that needed to learn a lesson about spoiling her so much. The 2005 film particularly makes it clear that she's not going to get her way so easily anymore.
Veruca: (sees Willy Wonka, Grandpa Joe, and Charlie riding in the glass elevator above them as she and her father walk out of the factory covered in garbage) Daddy, I want a glass elevator.
Mr. Salt: The only thing you're getting today is a bath. And that's final.
Veruca: (angrily) But I want it!
Also in the 2005 film, Violet is actually little happy about what happened to her. (She's become rather flexible after being juiced, despite being purple.)
Also, Augustus Gloop being slimmed down is arguably a good thing, though the experience would probably be very painful and his resulting body shape is questionable.
Wonka does suggest that "every basketball team in the country" will be after Mike now, but then, he does have a weird sense of humor.
Biggest example, Wonka still keeps his word and gives them all the lifetime supply of chocolate they were promised at the end.
Of course, you could call Willy Wonka the biggest Karma Houdini.
Karmic Death: Sort of. While Wonka claims none of the children die, each one (except Charlie) is taken out in this manner. The end of the book shows the naughty kids walking out of the factory, albeit considerably changed based on their punishments. Not every adaptation sticks with this, however...
Killer Rabbit: The squirrels in the Nut-Sorting Room. They are adorable... and if you get too close, they'll catch you and throw you down to the incinerator if they judge you to be a bad nut.
Level Ate: The most famous example is the Chocolate Room, in which the entirety of the meadow-esque landscape is actually candy, but Grandpa Joe also relates (in Chapter Three) a story about an Indian prince who commissioned an all-chocolate palace from Wonka. Wonka didn't realize until after it was built that the prince intended to live in it, and warned him that wasn't such a good idea, as it was bound to melt sooner or later...
Loads and Loads of Characters: To the point that when the tour starts, there's 15 people in the group (the four naughty kids and their parents, Charlie and Grandpa Joe, and Willy Wonka leading the way). It quickly becomes a Dwindling Party, but still. Most adaptations trim down the cast by limiting the number of adults a Golden Ticket finder can bring with them to one, resulting in four of the naughty kids' parents being either Demoted to Extra or Adapted Out.
Look Ma, I Am on TV!: Mike Teavee thinks defying Wonka's warnings in order to become "the first person to be sent by television" is totally worth it, never mind what it does to him. He's on TV!
Meaningful Name: Lampshaded by Wonka with Veruca, who was named after a plantar wart. And then there's Veruca's hoity toity mother, Angina.
Million to One Chance: Charlie managing to get his Golden Ticket; his family is so poor that a bar of chocolate is a once-a-year birthday luxury for the boy. Ultimately, he gets four tries at it — the birthday bar, one Grandpa Joe pays for out of what little change he's saved, and two bars he buys after finding some money in the snow. The fourth time is the charm. Interestingly, by that point he isn't even thinking about the contest, as he and the family are more concerned with just making it through the winter after his father loses his job. His finding the ticket — at the last possible moment (the day before the tour is to be held) to boot — is such a good example of this trope that some adaptations lampshade/play with it.
In the American stage musical adaptation Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka (2005), the kids in the candy store at the beginning are named James, Matilda, Sophie, Danny, Alfie, and Billy.
No OSHA Compliance: The factory itself is riddled with unbelievably dangerous areas, from a chocolate river with no safety rail that leads to a grinding machine via pipes, a gaping hole in the middle of the nut-sorting room that leads straight to a furnace, and a glass elevator that smashes through the roof (to name a few). Part of the problem seems to be that the owner seems to be preoccupied with attractive aesthetics ("I insist upon my rooms being beautiful!") over practical safety issues.
Obsessed with Food: Augustus Gloop's "hobby" is eating. In a sadder example, the Bucket family, never flush to begin with, is forced into this state once Mr. Bucket loses his job — all they can think about is how to not starve, or how to conserve their energy as they do...
Pinball Protagonist: Charlie. The only thing he actually does that affects the plot is buy the chocolate bar with the Golden Ticket; otherwise he's pretty much just jostled along by the story. Most adaptations, including the two films and the 2013 stage musical, add plot complications/twists to rectify this.
Rapid Hair Growth: Hair Toffee. It makes hair grow on your head within a half-hour of your eating it, which is perfect for bald people...but right now it's too powerful — the last Oompa-Loompa to test it wound up with hair that grows over a foot per day, constantly.
Science Cocktail: Several machines in the Inventing Room work this way (the Everlasting Gobstoppers and Great Gum Machine are described in full detail).
Seven Deadly Sins: At least four: Augustus is Gluttony, Violet is Pride, Veruca is Greed, and Mike is Sloth, creating some convenient Aesops.
Serious Business: The pursuit of the Golden Tickets. Even though the contest is aimed at children, adults all over the world get in on the act, some even resorting to criminal means.
Spoiled Brat: Veruca Salt is the most obvious example, but the other three naughty kids have been spoiled in their own ways, with their parents indulging and even encouraging their respective vices.
Teleporter Accident: Mike's attempt to become the first person transmitted by television results in him being shrunk to a few inches high.
Tree Top Town: The Oompa-Loompa village in Loompaland was one of these in order to afford the inhabitants some safety from the many predators roaming the land.
The Villain Sucks Song: The Oompa-Loompas sing one for each of the kids except Charlie, although they don't really count as villains. Augustus's fits the mold the most: Violet's and Mike's songs are anecdotes about gum-chewing and TV watching. Veruca's is more a disclaimer that her parents should have some of the blame. Augustus Gloop's song, however, is a storm of insults directly aimed at the boy.
A Weighty Aesop: Augustus Gloop may count, thanks to his unfavorable portrayal.
Where The Hell Is Springfield?: Thanks in part to the above Cultural Translation issues, it's unclear where Charlie's hometown and Wonka's factory are located. The movie versions are intentionally vague, while the 2013 musical suggests it's somewhere in Britain.
Worst News Judgment Ever: The Golden Ticket search, Serious Business that it is, warrants huge media coverage worldwide: huge front page headlines in newspapers and crowds of reporters tracking down the winners. (This results in a curious continuity error in the sequel, which claims that the opening of a space hotel was getting similar coverage, because there's no sign of that here.) Both the 1971 film and 2013 stage musical have fun with this trope, which arguably isn't that unrealistic given how often fluffy pop-culture crazes and mysterious celebrities have managed to make headlines in real life.
You Monster!: Exact words used by Mrs. Gloop when she sees that Willy Wonka is laughing hysterically after her son is sent off to who-knows-where via the pipes.