My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a kid (the squirrels! the Oompa-Loompas!). But this is the Roald Dahl book that has stayed with me, and a lot of other people I’ve met along the way. Like any really outstanding kids’ book it has a lot to say to, and about, adults.
Danny has a warm and loving relationship with his Dad: it’s a touchstone that gives him a measure for sane and healthy adult behaviour. It enables him to see the reverse, too: when an adult is nothing but a tall child, using a position of power and control to get off on exerting that power. He sees clearly, cannot be gaslit: he has the insight to know there are not two standards of ethical behaviour between children and adults, or indeed between any two groups of people. If an adult lies to his face, then calls him a simply awful little liar, he is not confused and not convinced.
Projection, much? There’s a lot of it about, of course: the corrupt impugn the honesty of others, the self-important want to take others ‘down a peg or two’. It’s a misdirection that works with the sheep, the weak and the stupid, often enough. But you can’t piss on Danny’s shoes and tell him it’s raining: he knows what ethical behaviour in good faith looks like, and what it don’t, bud.
Love gives him wisdom, and strength: but of course even the kindest most loving adult is a well of secrets, and Danny finds out his Dad is a more complex character than he dreamed… Isn’t everyone? That’s part of growing up, too.
Absolutely darling illustrations in the old Puffin edition by Jill Bennet, rather less enchanted by Quentin Blake.
image – James Havard https://www.flickr.com/photos/64885769@N08/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/