Sunday, October 2, 2016

Reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as an adult

I fondly recalled the magical moment of reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl when I was a kid.

Our family was quite poor, and like Charlie, we got to eat chocolate once a year.

That was during the Chinese New Year period when chocolate was one of the traditional goodies for our family to serve the guests.

I recalled the happy moment of seeing myself in Charlie’s shoes as I took an imaginary tour of the wonderful chocolate factory.

Now that I re-read the book as an adult, I have a different perspective.

I see the sadness of corporate downsizing and the loss of jobs for thousands of workers.

There are two retrenchments mention in the book.

The first retrenchment happened in the chocolate factory.  Mr Wonka realized that the competitors sent spies to steal his secrets of making wonderful products.

He asked the workers to leave, and closed the factory.  Thousands of workers lost their jobs.

The second retrenchment happened to the toothpaste factory that employed Charlie’s father.

Charlie’s father was very hardworking but he was in a lowly paid job.  His work was to cap the tube of toothpaste.

No matter how fast he was, or how hardworking he was, his income was barely enough to feed the whole family.

The whole family included his parents, his parents-in-law, he and his wife, and his son.  It is definitely hard for a sole breadwinner to take care of everyone, especially when the elderly ones are over 90 years old, and have to stay in bed all the time.

Another thing that touches me was the description of poverty.

When you have bread for breakfast, boiled potato and cabbage for lunch, and cabbage soup for dinner, life was not so enjoyable.

As a kid, Charlie dreamt of chocolate.

When his father lost his job, even cabbage became a rarity.  The whole family starved, and for Charlie, all he could think of is food.

That is the form of poverty that most of us never have to experience.

The story took a twist at this point, and it ended up with Mr Wonka selected Charlie as his heir to take over the chocolate factory.

I sure wish that every poor child has a mentor like Mr Wonka.

Mr Wonka agreed to teach Charlie everything, and later on to take over the business.

In today’s context, the only way for a poor kid to get out of poverty is to study very hard, get a scholarship, and gain enough knowledge to start a business or work as a professional.

Most kids in poor countries do not have the chance to do that.

To them, food is the most important in their life.  They can live without an education, but not without food.

They rather work when they are old enough to work, and they rather have the money to buy food for the family.

In many developing countries, that means working at a sweatshop for kids who are less than 14 years old.

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