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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory | Chapter 14 : Mr. Willy Wonka | Summary

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Summary

Mr. Wonka is standing just inside the gates. His appearance is extraordinary. He's wearing a top hat and sporting a gold-topped cane. His eyes are "most marvelously bright," and he looks "quick and sharp and full of life!" (There are a lot of exclamation points whenever Mr. Wonka is on the scene.)

Mr. Wonka asks the winners to come forward one at a time, welcoming each of them effusively. Charlie's last in line. Mr. Wonka warns everyone to stay together when they get inside. "I shouldn't like to lose any of you at this stage of the proceedings!" The iron gates slowly close behind the group as Mr. Wonka leads them through a big red door.

The air inside is deliciously warm, and "all the most wonderful smells in the world" seem to surround them. Mr. Wonka hurries them along a wide corridor and then makes a quick series of turns. Passages lead in all directions. Mr. Wonka points out that all the passages slope downward: the most important rooms in the factory are underground, where he has all the space he wants—"so long as I hollow it out."

The passages are sloping downhill more and more steeply as Mr. Wonka leads the group up to a metal door. On the door is printed THE CHOCOLATE ROOM.

Analysis

In this chapter delectable impressions come at the reader from all directions. Mr. Wonka's appearance definitely lives up to the reader's expectations. Dahl seems to have conceived him as an elfin combination of ringmaster and magician, with the lively movements of a bird or squirrel. Notice how much space is devoted to Mr. Wonka's description compared with that of the other characters. Dahl hasn't described Charlie's looks at all, but Mr. Wonka gets several paragraphs.

Mr. Wonka's torrent of words is matched by the complicated tangle of passageways inside the factory, which has its own mythical quality. He is literally leading the group into an underworld, and readers should recall that earlier in the chapter he says he wouldn't like to lose any of his guests "at this stage of the proceedings!" There's a shivery hint of menace in his words: is he saying he wants to lose them at a later stage?

It's a relief for readers to turn from cabbage and margarine toward candy. Dahl piles on the wonderful smells in the factory: "roasting coffee and burnt sugar and melting chocolate and mint and violets and crushed hazelnut." Watch for other passages in which Dahl will use the same "list" technique to overwhelm readers with stimuli—in a nice way, of course.

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