In the forty years since its publication, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has sold almost as well as the craze-inducing candy bars it describes. In their 2001 compilation of “All-Time Bestselling Children’s Books,” Diane Roback and Jason Britton rank paperback and hardback sales of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at 65 and 172 respectively among all children’s books, noting that a total of 3,739, 631 copies had been consumed by that time and that the novel perennially appears on the children’s top ten backlist. And as Jason Zasky has noted in his article, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: From Inauspicious Debut To Timeless Classic,” modest box offi ce sales of the novel’s fi lm adaptation in 1971 gave way to video and laser disc and DVD sales that continue to grow exponentially-a strong factor, no doubt, in Warner Brothers’s decision to produce another fi lm adaptation starring Johnny Depp, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in 2005. The development of Dahl’s story into a “cult classic”—Entertainment Weekly recently ranked Willy Wonka 25th in its “Top 50 Cult Movies” of all time (Bal, et al.)—has perplexed many readers: why does this narrative stir such strong responses in both children and adults? David Gooderham, one of the few scholars to tackle this question, notes that the simple explanations offered by educators and reviewers, which tend to center on Charlie’s punishment of vice and its subversion of adult authority,1 “do not quite catch the intensity of those early passions that the books raised” in him
and his children (113). What, then, lies behind the enduring power of this children’s text about candy?