steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

You’ll never look at a walnut whip the same way again...

Okay, I’ve been wondering about this for a couple of weeks now. At first I thought it was just a brain-maggot of little worth, but the more I went over it the more convincing it became. This weekend I put it to lady_schrapnell, in the hope that she’d tell me not to be so silly, but instead she became an enthusiastic collaborator in my hermeneutic folly. (And I thought I could rely on her!)

It’s all to do with the early works of Roald Dahl. It’s obvious, I hope, that the peach in which James drifts over the Atlantic is a kind of makeshift womb – but has anyone noticed that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory forms a diptych in its graphic portrayal of the male gonads?

The evidence for this? Let us begin with the name of the name of the factory’s genius loci. That name is... Willie Wonka. Need I say more? The book was first published in the States, so perhaps Dahl hoped that this fairly transparent wordplay would have been semi-submerged in the Atlantic, just as his sometime collaborator Ian Fleming assumed that “Pussy Galore” would mean little or nothing to British audiences. It's too late now.

But a name is not enough. Nor is it enough to note the amount of licking, sucking and swelling that goes on in this book. We must also follow the fate of the five children whom Wonka entices into his domain. At first I thought that these might represent rival sperm, each hoping to fertilize the goose that lays the golden egg (i.e. “to inherit the factory”). The celibate Wonka wants a child of his own, after all. But lady_schrapnell suggests an alternative reading, in which Dahl is warning us against various kinds of non-procreative sexual practice. Augustus Gloop, for example, is unnaturally fascinated by the river of chocolate (aka the Alimentary Canal) - by which conveyance he is at last deposited outside the factory via Port Esquiline. Veruca Salt’s very name is sufficiently suggestive of an STD, while Violet Beauregarde and Mike Teavee are both scopophiliacs - obsessed with looking rather than doing. (Isn't that what "Beauregarde" means?) Violet is eventually rejected as a “bad egg”, and Teavee reduced to a minuscule size, leaving Charlie to win through to the grand prize.

And what happens at that climactic moment? Why, Wonka and Charlie climb into a glass elevator, and in his ecstacy Wonka sends it erupting through the very roof of the factory. Why call it a Great Glass Elevator, when Jism Prism would be both more concise and to the point?

Or are we just reading too much into it?
Tags: books
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