Literature: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
The 1972 sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
by Roald Dahl
, beginning directly where the previous book left off
. Charlie, having just inherited ownership of Willy Wonka's factory, crashed through the roof of his home to pick up his family in Mr. Wonka's huge glass elevator (it can go in any direction, not just up and down). Having spent the past 20 years in bed, Charlie's grandparents (except for Grandpa Joe, who was already out) refused to get out of bed, so Mr. Wonka, Charlie, and Joe just pushed the bed into the Elevator.
Now, Wonka flies the Elevator really
high, with the intention that they will then shoot straight down through the roof of the chocolate factory. However, panicky Grandma Josephine accidentally causes them to fly into space, where they end up in orbit around the Earth. What happens up there is just the first
half of this novel, because Grandma Josephine and her fellow bedmates manage to get themselves in even more trouble once everyone's back at the factory and Mr. Wonka reveals that he's created a Fountain of Youth
You'll probably be unsurprised to hear that this book was/is a lot less popular than the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
, though it remains in print to this day. It has never had a film adaptation, since Dahl hated Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
enough to refuse all rights to make this book into a film. Most adaptations of Chocolate Factory
, including the 2005 Tim Burton film adaptation
and the 2013 stage musical
, have complete closure, negating the circumstances of this book (and thus serving as Alternate Continuity
). However, Richard George adapted it into a play, and there have been at least five different audiobook versions.
Dahl was working on a third book, Charlie in the White House
, but when he died, only one chapter was complete, hence the lack of real closure at the end of this one
This novel provides examples of (see also the character sheet for both books):
- Absurd Altitude: The action proper begins with the elevator winding up in Earth's orbit.
- Actionized Sequel: The first half is an outer space adventure, and even the second half, while more in line with the first book's events, has an Orphean Rescue.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: The astronauts are named Shuckworth, Shanks, and Showler, and they're heading up a Commuter Capsule to boot!
- Adults Are Useless: Or in this case the U.S. government.
- An Aesop / Morality Ballad: The Oompa-Loompas deliver a song about not "help[ing] yourself/To medicine from the medicine shelf" in the wake of the grandparents' de-aging themselves with too much Wonka-Vite. Also counts as...
- Space Whale Aesop: Taking forbidden medicine and/or too much of it will either de-age you out of this plane of existence or confine you to the toilet for most of your waking hours for the rest of your life.
- Alliterative Name / Punny Name: Actress Helen Highwater, only mentioned in passing.
- Almighty Janitor: Despite being Vice President, former nanny Elvira Tibbs is universally regarded as the real power in the White House.
- And the Adventure Continues / Sequel Hook: At the end, the gang is off to the White House to be hailed as heroes...
- Artificial Gravity: In the Space Hotel.
- Ascended Extra: Grandma Josephine, Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina have much larger roles here than in the first book, especially Grandma Georgina who becomes a Foil to Willy Wonka and takes on a The Complainer Is Always Wrong role.
- Ass Kicks You: A Vermicious Knid attempts to ram the Great Glass Elevator with its tail. Gets inverted into a Literal Ass Kicking when it bounces right off and is left with a large purple bruise on its rear.
- Awesome but Impractical: The President's fly-killing device (see Kansas City Shuffle below).
- Backstory: Mr. Wonka delivers several chunks of this — first to explain what the Vermicious Knids are and what they do, and later to explain how, in turn, Wonka-Vite and Vita-Wonk were created and perfected.
- Black Comedy: As in the first book, characters go through some awful transformations and experiences, but humor is never far away.
- Blob Monster: The Vermicious Knids.
- Cartoon Bug-Sprayer: Mr. Wonka uses one to administer the Vita-Wonk to Grandma Georgina.
- Character Name and the Noun Phrase: As per the title of its predecessor.
- Chest of Medals: "The Chief of the Army was wearing so many medal-ribbons they covered the entire front of his tunic on both sides and spread down on to his trousers as well."
- Chew Toy: Grandma Georgina, making her the standout character among the grandparents this time around.
- Comic Fantasy: Though it shades more into science fiction than the first book did, especially in the first half.
- The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Grandma Georgina is the grouchiest and most vocal of the protagonists, and is never right about anything. And suffers more abuse than any of the other characters.
- Continuity Nod: As the elevator heads down to Minusland, Mr. Wonka notes that he hopes the other elevator that runs on the same track isn't headed in their direction. ("I've always been lucky before.") Much the same dialogue appeared in the first book when the tour group first rode the elevator.
- Also, when Mr. Wonka trots out Wonka-Vite to get the other grandparents out of bed, Charlie is nervous about letting them anywhere near the stuff, remembering what happened with the last miracle invention Mr. Wonka showed off — namely the imperfect three-course-meal gum that turned Violet into a blueberry. This time the pills work as they're supposed to, but the grandparents foolishly overdose on them, and the chapter title "Good-bye Grandma Georgina" even calls back to the first book's "Good-by Violet"!
- Cool Starship: The Great Glass Elevator. Sure, it doesn't look like what most people think of when they hear the term "cool starship"...arguably that actually makes it cooler!
- Crowd Song: The Oompa-Loompas have a brief chorus welcoming Mr. Wonka back to the factory, one extolling the virtues of Wonka-Vite that even gets a reprise, and the above-mentioned Morality Ballad.
- Cultural Translation: The previous novel used the term lift in the U.K. edition. Like its predecessor, the U.S. edition of this book came out before the U.K. one, hence the title; the first chapter of the U.K. version includes additional dialogue to justify the use of the term elevator throughout (specifically, Wonka regards the lift as an elevator now that it's acting as an air/spacecraft and is thus extremely elevated).
- Death by Gluttony: Grandma Georgina barely avoids this when she is stopped from taking six Wonka-Vite pills, which would have made her minus 42 years old! (Not that four isn't too many for her anyway, but with six Georgina would have really been screwed.)
- Double Meaning Title: The first chapter is titled "Mr. Wonka Goes Too Far", referencing both his fearless — and to the others, terrifying — decision to send the elevator absurdly high and his inability to stop it from going further up than he planned thanks to Grandma Josephine.
- Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: In the backstory, the Vermicious Knids have tried to invade and conquer Earth the way they did several Sacrificial Planets (see below) but Earth's atmosphere is too much for them — what look to humans like shooting stars are actually Vermicious Knids burning up when they try to pass through.
- Elevator Gag: The Book! It goes into space, it goes down to a hellish limbo...
- Eureka Moment: Grandma Josephine wailing "Why can't we all go home?" triggers this for Willy Wonka when he can't figure out how to escape the chain of Vermicious Knids (see Remembered I Could Fly below).
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin / In Which a Trope Is Described: As with its predecessor, many chapter titles spoil the events of said chapters, especially in the second half ("Good-bye Grandma Georgina", "Rescue in Minusland", etc.).
- Extremely Short Timespan: The action takes place over several hours at most; note that Grandpa Joe tells Charlie at the end that — between the tour of the factory in the first book and the events of this one — they've had quite a day.
- Eye of Newt: Wonka-Vite and Vita-Wonk consist primarily or entirely of such ingredients. The former needs such things as "the trunk (and the suitcase) of an elephant" and "the horn of a rhinoceros (it must be a loud horn)". The latter requires things that can specifically "create age" — ancient trees and animals are the source of these.
- Fountain of Youth: One Wonka-Vite pill de-ages the taker 20 years.
- Frictionless Reentry: While the book is full of Artistic License in regards to physics, this Trope is nearly inverted completely, because reentry does cause friction here. The mistake made, however, is that Mr. Wonka claims it is the reason that the Knids cannot invade Earth (saying they would burn up in the atmosphere if they tried) but they were able to invade Mars and Venus without this problem. If anything, Venus would be an even bigger problem for this reason, and they wouldn't be able to invade Mars either.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar
- There's a fleeting mention of a movie star named "Helen Highwater".
- Not to mention a literal example: Granny Pinklesweet's chocolate-brown anti-constipation pills.
- Gravity Sucks: Inverted. When the Elevator gets "too high", it spontaneously starts orbiting the Earth.
- Growling Gut: The little girl who overdoses on anti-constipation pills gets an extremely noisy case of this, to the point that neighbors think it's thunder!
- Halfway Plot Switch: The first half deals with the elevator going into space and the encounter with the Vermicious Knids. The second half deals with the effects of Wonka-Vite on the grandparents, with the events and new characters of the first half forgotten until the final chapter.
- Hammerspace: Mr. Wonka pulls a Cartoon Bug-Sprayer full of Vita-Wonk from beneath his tail coat! Moreover, he's apparently had that sprayer with him all along.
- Handwave: Mr. Wonka claims that Wonka-Vite is too valuable to waste on himself, which is why he needs an heir. That doesn't stop him from wasting a great deal on Charlie's grandparents!
- Also, Mr. Wonka explains that the elevator can fly because of "skyhooks". When someone asks what the skyhooks are attached to, he brushes off the question.
- Harmful Healing: Grandma Georgina's "Rescue in Minusland" leaves her 300+ years old! Luckily, a carefully administered dose of Wonka-Vite finally returns her to normal.
- Hellevator: The Great Glass Elevator is able to travel to a subterranean land that's effectively "Hell without heat" to facilitate an Orphean Rescue.
- Horde of Alien Locusts: The Vermicious Knids.
- Hot Line: This novel was written as the Cold War was going on, and the first thing the President does when he and his underlings suspect the Elevator's occupants are spies is to call up the Russian premier on a hot line. He also has a hot line to the Chinese premier, which uses a special porcelain phone.
- Hypocritical Humor
[Everyone in the world is watching the Great Glass Elevator in space on a television camera.]
Showler: Looks like some kind of a war dance, Mr. President.
President Gilligrass: You mean they're Indians!
Showler: I didn't say that, sir.
President Gilligrass: Oh, yes you did, Showler.
Showler: Oh, no I didn't, Mr. President.
President Gilligrass: Silence! You're muddling me up.
- Immediate Sequel: Picks up right where the first book ended, with the elevator heading back to the factory.
- Informed Ability: A humorous example: The three American astronauts transporting the staff to the Space Hotel are introduced as being "handsome, clever and brave", and proceed to do absolutely nothing, much less anything clever or brave, for the rest of the book. It's still possible they are handsome.
- Instructional Title: The final chapter is called "How To Get a Person Out Of Bed". For those wondering how, it's give them an invitation to the White House.
- Insubstantial Ingredients: Certain ingredients in Wonka-Vite are these — "the hip (and the po and the pot) of a hippopotamus", for instance.
- Insult Backfire: Vice President Elvira Tibbs (who was President Gilligrass's nanny when he was a boy) sings a song about how Gilligrass is doltish, semi-literate, and utterly incompetent. He loves the song.
- Invisible Monsters: The Gnoolies of Minusland are invisible, inaudible insects. The only sign of their presence a human can feel is their bite, and once bitten, the victim is doomed to slowly be divided into more Gnoolies.
- Kansas City Shuffle: The President of the United States, on the fly, invents a convoluted device for killing flies. It is basically a walkway mounted on two miniature ladders on each side, with a cube of sugar hanging from the center of the walkway. As the President explains, the fly would climb up the first ladder and would be traversing the walkway when it would catch sight of the sugar cube and become tempted by it; just before it decided to make its way down the hanging string to eat the sugar, however, it would realize that there is a bowl of water directly beneath the hanging cube, meaning that the fly would drown if it fell. As a result, the fly would continue walking over to the second ladder, feeling smug that it had avoided the water trap - until it started to descend the second ladder and fell to its death because the President had left off one of the ladder's rungs near the top. It's parodious, since flies obviously aren't smart enough for such an overelaborate trick to work, and they can't fall to their deaths because they can, y'know, fly.
- Kid Sidekick / Tagalong Kid: Charlie doesn't get to do a whole lot in this story other than occasionally play The Watson — a role he shares with all the other adults that aren't Willy Wonka, the real protagonist this time out.
- Knock Knock Joke: The President inflicts a few of these on people, using them to open his phone calls to them.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: Cover blurbs typically spoil the ending of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, though since that novel's plot is more or less It Was His Sled at this point...
- Made of Indestructium: The Elevator is "shockproof, waterproof, bombproof, bulletproof, and Knidproof". Sure enough, the Elevator is undamaged when a huge Knid rams it at high speed.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: A curious variant: When Grandma Georgina is aged to 300+ years old via Vita-Wonk, her memories change to reflect the times she would have been born in and lived through had she come to this point naturally. Her earliest memory is arriving in America on the Mayflower. When she is returned to her natural age, these memories apparently disappear.
- Minus World: Minusland is a dreary example of this.
- Mistaken for Aliens and Mistaken for Spies: The elevator's passengers are first regarded as the second trope by the rest of the world and the bed is believed to be a bomb. Then Willy Wonka decides to invoke the first trope when he is told to identify himself and his companions at the Space Hotel (there are no cameras in there, so he assumes a funny voice and basically trolls Earth). Ultimately, after he and the others help save the Space Hotel crew and guests from the actual aliens that turn out to be in the hotel, they are regarded as heroic astronauts rather than spies, with no one the wiser about the prank he pulled.
- Mythology Gag: Vermicious Knids were previously mentioned in passing in the author's James and the Giant Peach and would later warrant mention in The Minpins. (Mr. Wonka also mentions them as a Cryptic Background Reference in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, though they are apparently native to Loompaland in that continuity.) This is the only book in which they actually appear.
- Narrative Profanity Filter: "The President said a very rude word into the microphone, and ten million children across the country began repeating it gleefully and got smacked by their parents."
- Never My Fault: The bed-ridden grandparents blame Mr. Wonka for the whole mess with the Wonka-Vite, never mind that he had flat-out warned them how powerful the pills were yet they proceeded to overdose on them.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The President of the United States was Richard Nixon at the time of this book's writing, but here he is called "Lancelot Gilligrass".
- No Seat Belts: Averted in the second half — when Mr. Wonka and Charlie head for Minusland in the Elevator, it turns out to have seats that fold out from the walls, complete with belts. It's surprising because up to this point in both books everyone using the Elevator stands (unless they're the bedridden grandparents, of course!) as if they are on a subway. Perhaps there wasn't enough room in the Elevator to put the seats down with all the other occupants?
- Not Drawn to Scale: In the first book, the Elevator is large enough to hold a bed that sleeps four people plus several standing occupants, and the ceiling can't be much higher than the occupants because the buttons can be reached and pushed by Willy Wonka. This time out, it's large enough that everyone's floating freely about when it initially goes into orbit and Mr. Wonka, Grandpa Joe, and Charlie have to propel themselves through the air to reach each of the buttons that need to be pushed to stabilize it.
- Omnibus: The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Mr. Willy Wonka collects this book and its predecessor in one volume.
- Orphean Rescue: For Grandma Georgina.
- Our Presidents Are Different: Lancelot R. Gilligrass may be the arch-typical President Buffoon. (In Quentin Blake's illustrations, he bears a strong resemblance to a similarly incompetent fictional president, Merkin Muffley.)
- Outside-Context Villain: The Vermicious Knids, whom most of humanity is completely unaware of; when the crew and guests of the space hotel are attacked by them, they have no choice but to flee. Luckily, Willy Wonka is this to the Knids — he not only knows what they and their weaknesses are, but took the trouble to ensure that the Elevator is Knidproof!
- Phlebotinum Overdose: Happens twice: First when the three grandparents take the Wonka-Vite, and second when Wonka uses the Vita-Wonk to re-age Grandma Georgina. In the latter case, he doesn't have any choice, owing to an exact dose being tough to administer to what's essentially a ghost, but Charlie argues that he didn't have to spray her three times...
- Phlebotinum Pills: Wonka-Vite comes in pill form, whereas Vita-Wonk is a liquid.
- Plot Leveling: As the first book ends with Mr. Wonka having found an heir in Charlie and the boy and his family destined to live the good life in the factory, thus leaving the characters without any real needs, continuing their story requires throwing them into new adventures. So the Great Glass Elevator accidentally winds up in orbit, and they encounter killer aliens, and then the bedridden grandparents' stubborn refusal to get out of bed leads into the Wonka-Vite misadventure, which leads to the journey to Minusland...
- Plot Parallel: The Morality Ballad following on from the grandparents de-aging themselves is also about someone who helped themselves to too much medicine with disastrous results.
- Psycho Supporter: The President's chief general is a Psychopathic Manchild. ("Let's blow everybody up! Bam bam boom blam blam!") The President and the Vice President have to constantly keep him from going rogue...and he does respectfully, if unhappily, defer to them, thus fitting this trope.
- Punny Name: Besides Helen Highwater there's a Soviet premier named Yugetoff.
- Rapid Aging: Vita-Wonk, created as a counterpart to Wonka-Vite, causes this.
- Reality Ensues: Fanciful as most of it is, the book's events effectively start thanks to this trope — the bedridden grandparents, having just been uprooted from their home and en route to a new one, are anxious and suspicious of Mr. Wonka and his wacky ways, culminating in Grandma Josephine's panic.
- Remembered I Could Fly: The elevator spends a long time in orbit being pursued by a Vermicious Knid, which eventually links up with the rest of its kind to form a huge chain and manages to capture it (and the rescued space capsule). As the chain begins to head to the aliens' home planet, Willy Wonka admits that he's "at a loss" for a way to solve this problem...then the despondent Grandma Josephine wails "Why can't we all go home?" This reminds Mr. Wonka that they can just go home by directing the elevator to return to the factory, which will burn up the aliens in Earth's atmosphere in the bargain.
- Retcon: All of Charlie's grandparents were said to be over 90 years old in the first book. Here, they're all around the 80-year mark, in order for the Wonka-Vite plotline to work.
- Rummage Fail: Mr. Wonka has to turn out his pockets — which contain (according to him) all his most important possessions — to find the recipe for Wonka-Vite, bringing up such items as a rubber fried egg, stink bomb, and "homemade catapult" along the way.
- Sacrificial Planet: The Vermicious Knids are said to have eaten the former inhabitants of Venus, Mars, and the Earth's moon. The only reason why they haven't devoured Earth yet is because they can't survive the friction heat from plummeting through the atmosphere.
- Scare 'Em Straight: While this isn't the morality play the first book was, the "don't fool around with medicine" Aesop presented in the second half definitely has this vibe, particularly in the Susie Pinklesweet Show Within a Show, which details how she had to be taken to the hospital and get her stomach pumped among other things.
- Sequel Escalation: Regarding the Actionized Sequel events listed above, in both halves the stakes are life-and-death and the possibility of the latter is taken more seriously than it was in the first book with regards to the bratty kids' misfortunes. Willy Wonka is the protagonist this time around rather than the Audience Surrogate Charlie, and his eccentric hijinks are given a lot of page time (such as a stretch in which he basically trolls Earth by claiming he and his companions are aliens). There are also three new Oompa-Loompa songs, several songs/poems for Willy Wonka, and even a song for the President of the United States's nanny/vice president!
- Series Continuity Error
- All four grandparents were said to be over 90 years old in the first book, but the three bedridden ones here are in their early 80s at most — which wouldn't be such a big error if it weren't so important to the second half.
- Specific to the U.K. edition as a side effect of the Cultural Translation the first book received: Factory suggests Charlie and his family are British; they use British currency and such terms as sweets and lift in place of candies and elevator. Here, they're specifically said to be American. Again, this factors into the plot, as Grandma Georgina's memories as the oldest woman in the world work their way through highlights of U.S. history!
- Show Within a Show: The sad story of Susie Pinklesweet, recounted as part of the Oompa-Loompa's Morality Ballad, is a Type 4 Plot Parallel example similar to the Miss Bigelow story in the first book.
- Space Does Not Work That Way:
- In the beginning, the elevator goes straight up into space, and then right into orbit, despite no forces parallel to the earth's surface being applied to the elevator during this time, which a rocket would need in order to orbit the earth. In reality, the elevator would have been pulled right back to Earth by the planet's gravity.
- At one point, Mr. Wonka states that while in orbit, you can't just turn around and go the other way. This is actually possible; just turn your rocket 90 degrees to the direction it's currently going in, then fire the rockets and your orbit route will change accordingly.
- Space Elevator: The Great Glass Elevator enters space, though not on a "typical" cable. It uses a cable with "skyhooks". One end is hooked to the elevator, the other to... Hey! Look! A convenient distraction! That's more Mr. Wonka deflecting the question by handwaving the Elevator's support/propulsion mechanism than a genuine explanation. Essentially, the book does not contain an explanation. The elevator also has "rockets" which the illustrations depict as nothing more than an exhaust bell underneath, attached to the outside of the glass, with no sign of the rest of the rocket engine or the fuel tanks. Really the thing works by something between Applied Phlebotinum and magic, and it is not useful to try and explain it rationally.
- Stunned Silence: When Charlie and Mr. Wonka return from Minusland, only Grandpa Joe greets them, because the rest of the Buckets nearby have been struck stone-silent by the dreadful sight of the now-ancient Grandma Georgina.
- Stupid Evil: The Vermicious Knids twist their stretchy bodies in to the letters "S-C-R-A-M," thus frightening off their victims and depriving themselves of a meal, because, as Mr. Wonka explains, "They're tremendously proud of being able to write like that," and scram is the only word they know how to spell.
- Toilet Humor: In response to the grandparents taking too much Wonka-Vite, the Oompa-Loompas perform a song telling the sad tale of a little girl who foolishly helped herself to the tastiest-looking stuff in her grandma's medicine cabinet — which turned out to be chocolate-flavored laxatives. She survived, but ever since (as the overdose was so high) she's had to spend seven hours in the ladies' room every day.
- Trapped With Monster Plot: The segment in Space Hotel U.S.A. with the Vermicious Knids.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: It's Grandma Josephine's panicking that causes the elevator to fly into orbit when she keeps Mr. Wonka from reaching the controls that would have stopped it from going that high. They're lucky the elevator turns out to be equipped for space travel! (On the other hand, the heroes will ultimately save many people for being in space.)
- Urban Fantasy: As per its predecessor.
- Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The whole outer space escapade is quite whimsical until the man-eating Vermicious Knids show up. They're notable as the only out-and-out villains that appear and affect the action between the two novels (the invisible Gnoolies of Minusland are mentioned as a threat but don't actually cause trouble).
- A Villain Named Zrg: The Vermicious Knids.
- Virus and Cure Names: The Fountain of Youth pill Wonka-Vite isn't a virus, of course, but the Rapid Aging counterpart developed specifically to re-age those who are rendered too young is known as Vita-Wonk.
- We All Live in America: The Buckets, whose nationality was not stated in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, are revealed to be Americans here, in the wake of the 1971 movie that cast them thus.
- Who's on First?: Mr. Wing and Mr. Wong on the phone, and explaining the carpets are wall-to-wall to Mr. Walter Wall.
- World of Pun: The book is filled with puns, such as the Chief Financial Advisor trying to balance the budget. (It kept falling off his head.)
- As well as the aforementioned Mr. Wing and Mr. Wong leading to the president saying that "every time you wing you get the wong number."
- You Do NOT Want To Know: Willy Wonka, recounting the story of how he invented and perfected Wonka-Vite, lets on that he tested the prototype versions of the pill on 131 Oompa-Loompas, one at a time. It's clear that something went wrong every time until it was perfected and worked splendidly on the 132nd, but when pressed by the Buckets, he won't say what that was. After Grandma Georgina overdoses on the pills and is de-aged into Minusland, Mr. Wonka finally explains to Charlie that the 131 Oompa-Loompas went through the same experience she did (as the pills were too powerful at that point). Mr. Wonka rescued them all by creating Vita-Wonk and journeying down to Minusland to bring them back, a terribly long and risky process and thus one he didn't want to discuss in the present.