Lessons learned from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

As a child, I read a book a day during the school year. This wasn’t the result of any school initiated program, my love affair with reading started at a young age. One day, after a visit from my cousins, I discovered that one of them had left their copy of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at my house. I got comfortable with the book and devoured it. Dare I say it was life-changing? Okay, that’s probably a bit “over the top,” but it does remain on my list of favorite books.

I was obviously excited to discover the movie adaptation of the book. (I prefer the Gene Wilder version to the Johnny Depp version, but we won’t get into all of that here.) Anytime it’s airing, I stop what I’m doing and watch. During my most recent viewing, I started to wonder why I enjoy it so much. I realized that it’s because of the life lessons weaved into the story. Here are a few I’d like to share (SPOILER ALERT!):

Speak up for those who can’t. At the end of the movie, when Willy Wonka brushes off Charlie and Grandpa Joe, Grandpa Joe lights into him without hesitation. Charlie had been raised to be polite to adults, and that’s just what he did, even though Wonka got short with him. Grandpa Joe spoke up for Charlie in a time when Charlie couldn’t speak. It’s good to know that there are people who will speak up for you when you can’t. It’s even better to be a voice for someone who has been silenced. Better yet is to revisit the ways that society has intentionally sought to silence marginalized groups, and work to right this wrong.

Honesty pays. After Wonka dismisses Charlie, Charlie still returns the Everlasting Gobstopper. Many times, we use the fact that someone has wronged us as permission to “return the favor.” But two wrongs don’t make a right. Never have, never will. Whether you receive a big payoff like Charlie or just the knowledge that your reputation will remain in tact, honesty still pays.

Don’t stop dreaming (and don’t be afraid to dream big). This is one of my favorite lessons from this story! Here is a boy from the poorest of the poor – his four grandparents share a bed just so he can have his own space. While other kids are ripping open hundreds of Wonka bars to find a golden ticket, Charlie only touches two. Yet, he has the audacity to dream that he could win a golden ticket. This is a defiant dreamer.

You know how the story ends. Charlie’s dream of winning a golden ticket comes true, but he ends up winning much more than a trip to the Wonka Factory. Charlie receives riches beyond his wildest dreams. Allow me to transition to the “spiritual” for a moment and explain it this way: Charlie had faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), and this led to him receiving more than he could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20 & 1 Corinthians 2:9).

There are many more nuggets of wisdom buried in this literary treasure box. What did I miss?