Between the efforts of Johnny Depp, Gene Wilder, and Roald Dahl, most of us know that five children entered Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory one cold British morning and experienced a trial like no other. Before the day’s end, four of the children were weighed, measured, and found wanting–their shortcomings revealed to all. The fifth child, Charlie Bucket, was proven kind and virtuous and received a reward beyond all reason. The four rejected children were spoiled, each in their own way. They had “gone bad” the way a peach spoils when left on the kitchen counter too long. In the language of the Scripture, these children were sinners in the hands of Willy Wonka. Wait–did you recoil when you encountered the word sinner? “Oh no!” you protest, “The children had gone bad because their parents had failed them.”
Sinners in the Hands of Willy Wonka
Augustus Gloop had been over-fed by a doting mother until he could not control his appetite;
Violet Beauregard had been indulged by parents living vicariously through their child;
Veruca Salt was a brat because her father had never told her “no;”
Mike Teavee was an odious, unruly boy because his parents had surrendered him to the electronic babysitter.
No reader (or viewer) could fault Mr. Wonka for separating the children from the factory: he did not give them the chocolate factory because it would have destroyed the children completely and the children would have damaged the factory–along with those who lived and worked there.
These children were, in the very words of Roald Dahl, “spoiled.” They were not rejected because they broke the house rules; they were sent away because their child-like nature had been corrupted into monstrous distortions of their true potential, their true calling. Willy Wonka did not follow the children about the factory, rulebook in hand, eager to cite them for any violation. He did not enforce regulations or demand perfection. He simply wanted to give away his creation to those capable of stewarding the factory by the virtue of their heart, a heart in tune with the maker.