The following is mostly based upon the Gene Wilder version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (AKA Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), with a few elements of the book scattered through. In the Wilder film Charlie is American (well, Peter Ostrum and many of the actors playing the other main characters are...) so I've always imagined that the story was based in a random American town. Being British I may well mix up some of the terminology, but I'm going to do my best to have him using the American versions of various words. Please forgive me for any mistakes made...
A note on money... I've chosen to set this in the 1970's, as that is when the film was produced, so the things we see will usually be as close as I can get to things which did exist then. A bit of exploration suggests that chocolate in America at that time cost between 10 and 20 cents. As far as wages are concerned... the minimum hourly rate in 1970 was apparently 1.60. This was for 'graduates' though, and Charlie is no more than 12 at the time he's doing this paper round. I've guessed that he spent half hour every day delivering the papers (Mon-Sat), so I'm therefore going to suggest that as a child Charlie earns half a dollar each day he works, or 30 cents less than a graduate would earn for the same amount of time (a very generous boss).
I'm not altogether sure whether edible things in bedrooms was something I thought up on my own before reading others thoughts on the matter or not. It could be either. Regardless of whether that came from my own head, or some of the other wonderful stories I've read on the subject, it does seem Very Wonka-esque!
This is a multi-chapter fic, with the first three chapters focusing on the events which took place during the film, and suggesting what Charlie might have been thinking and feeling as they took place. They are primarily concerned with character development so that we can know him a little better when the time comes for them to move into the factory.
If you recognise it from elsewhere, I don't own it, and I'm not making any money from it...
With all of that said, on with the story!
How it all began
Charlie was lying in his new little bed inside Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, supposedly trying to sleep but in reality far too worked up to do so. He could hardly believe he was here. He had had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming, and even then, the smarting of his arm wasn't penetrating his current feeling of disbelief!
His bedroom was as strange as much of the rest of the factory. Wonka – as Mr Wonka had told him to call him – had said that one couldn't go to bed without some nice sugary sweetness to wake up to, so as in the chocolate room many of the items were edible. Most of the edible items in his room had a mint flavour to them. Even the fountain, which was a thick, clear, water like substance, tasted of minty hot chocolate! That was going to be a favourite 'before bed' drink Charlie could tell!
Charlie was exhausted – he admitted the fact freely to himself – but he currently couldn't sleep, he was too wired for that as yet. The day had been such a rollercoaster of emotions. Strike that, as Wonka might have said, the last few months, ever since the news of the Golden Tickets had broken, had been an emotional rollercoaster. Today had simply compounded the complex mix of feelings he was experiencing!
Charlie could still remember the day he found out about the Great Ticket Hunt. It was the day after his first pay day, the 5th of May 1970. His first pay day was also one he would remember fondly, even if he had felt the usual longing to be able to spend as freely in the candy store as the majority of his classmates seemed to on a daily basis. The best he could manage was to window shop, imagining what sweets he would choose, and how he would spend his money.
Despite this loss, it had been a good day. He had had the joy of feeling the man of the house, providing for his family. He walked home from his paper round, celebratory loaf of bread safely lodged in his bag, clutching the odd change to give to his mother and grandfather. He would never have dreamed of spending any of that money on candy. Much as he often longed for a taste of something sweet, that money was for his family – he knew how much of a difference his wage would make. It might only be one loaf of bread each week, a little towards the rent, and his Grandpa's baccy money, but to be able to do this much made him feel about 6 feet tall.
He had walked home with the bread tucked carefully into his satchel, pondering how to disperse of the remainder of his funds. Mom would have most of it, and the little spare change he would give to Grandpa Joe for tobacco. Charlie relished the ability to pay for this one small luxury for his Grandfather... Except that when he handed over the cash Grandpa Joe had declared that when the family looked upon the loaf of bread Charlie had brought home as a banquet he had no right to spend some of the little money they had on tobacco – however inexpensive it might be. With pressing he'd agreed to take it though, possibly seeing the hope in Charlie's eyes, and how disappointed he'd be if his Grandfather said 'no.'
That was also the day he'd met the tinker at the factory gates on his way home. He'd been staring in through the bars of the tall gates when suddenly someone started speaking behind him. The one thing he said that Charlie remembered by the time he got home was something about no one ever going in or out of the gates. Later on that evening he mentioned this experience to Grandpa Joe. He confirmed that no one had entered the factory in many years, explaining the reasons behind it – the spies who kept on stealing Mr Wonka's recipes. At the time they'd both been highly confused about who could be helping Mr Wonka run the factory. There had to be someone, but there was no sign of anyone who could be doing so. Given the fact that there were lots of Wonka bars on sale, and the factory was obviously running, there was no other option.
Now, some months later, with a better understanding of what was happening in the factory he recalled the man saying something about 'the fear of little men.' Charlie wondered if this might be a reference to the Oompa Loompa's, and began to ponder who the man might be... Who outside of the factory knew about the Oompa Loompa's? Charlie paused here in his ruminating. He was getting ahead of himself.
The following day in class Mr Turkentine had been teaching them about the new wart remover he'd come up with. Mr Turkentine was a strange man, scolding Charlie for answering a question as if he'd chosen to be 'presumptuous and rude' rather than simply answering the question he had been asked. Mr Turkentine was often like that around Charlie, maybe there was something he just didn't like about the boy. He seemed to be forever telling him off when Charlie had done no wrong. It was possible that he struggled with the extreme poverty Charlie's family were facing. No one in the school was rich, but very few of the families had to make the hard sacrifices Charlie's did.
On this occasion, Mr Turkentine had called Charlie up to assist him, and scolded him while he was quietly waiting to be told what to do next. Being used to the strange quirks of the man Charlie had waited for him to finish, and continue on with the lesson. Eventually Mr Turkentine deigned to explain the task - they were to mix three liquids, Nitric Acid, Glycerine, and a special mix Mr Turkentine had come up with. If the resulting mixture didn't explode they would have created the wart remover. Charlie had carefully helped the teacher to mix the three liquids in a large jar. Suddenly the concoction had made a loud 'bang,' sending a rush of smoke over the pair of them.
Just as Charlie was asking the man if they'd done something wrong they heard a loud noise issuing from beyond the door, and the teacher strode over to the door and called in one of the children from the hall. He soon learned that there were some lucky 'golden tickets' for 5 people to find to get a tour of the factory – and a lifetime supply of chocolate as an added bonus. The excitement in this town was even stronger than in most of the world – for Wonka's Chocolate factory was situated inside the town's boundaries, and Charlie's route home took him right past the gates. It was Charlie's favourite part of the journey, and if it hadn't been part of his normal route he would have quite happily diverted past it, but home was so close that he walked along past the gates to get anywhere...
Next thing the class was dismissed and everyone poured out to see if they could locate one of the precious golden tickets. Charlie, not having the money to spend on chocolate, simply returned to his seat, quietly packed up and walked slowly home to join his family in watching the chaos on the TV. Charlie did admit his desire to be one of the lucky winners to his family though. This quickly became his dearest wish. How could it not be, he may never have been inside the gates, but the factory had always been an important part of Charlie's life. So many of his dreams were founded on it – he fanaticised about it regularly, and what it would be like to work there. Real life was hard, but in his world of dreams there was so much pleasure and lots of wonderful things.
Soon the first ticket was found, a few weeks into the competition, on the 30th of May, by a lucky German boy. Charlie and family watched the news report where he was interviewed. Charlie had to look away from the screen when the large boy stuffed his face while answering the questions posed to him. It turned out this behaviour wasn't particularly surprising as the boy's father actually ate the head off of the microphone which was shoved in his face when asked a question. His mother was only slightly better, talking about him loving his food and being a growing boy so he must need the nourishment. Charlie felt slightly sick as the three of them consumed enough to support his family for at least a week in that one meal.
Charlie's birthday came the following day. He was so excited to receive two gifts – the first one came from his Mother and two Grandmas', who had personally knitted him a beautiful red scarf to replace the thin ragged one he had worn up until that point. Grandmothers Josephine and Georgina supplemented the small income by knitting things to sell. His Mom was so busy keeping them fed and clean that her own money earning work took place outside the home in the small laundry down the street. It was backbreaking work which often kept her out late into the evening, so she only rarely did any extra knitting.
His two grandpas' gave him his usual yearly gift of a chocolate bar. This year it was extra special as they'd given him the chance of finding one of the gold tickets as their gift was a Wonka Fudge Mallow Delight. The sense of anticipation in the air grew thicker as Grandpa Joe encouraged him to think that there might just be a chance he might find one. After all Grandpa said, he wanted it more than anyone else...
Given the madness and mayhem which surrounded them, Charlie couldn't quite credit that assertation, but he knew it was the easiest way for them to describe the situation... All those privileged kids had so much handed to them on a plate. For them, chocolate was an everyday occurrence, not a treasured birthday gift, hoarded to enjoy the thick sweet flavour for as long as possible. Charlie often managed to make one bar last for a few months, taken one tiny nibble every day.
Grandpa wouldn't be able to stomach saying that he 'deserved' it more than the rest. Charlie couldn't handle thinking it either, there was something too prideful about that kind of statement, but he knew that's what they were getting at. However they phrased it though, he knew that while everyone he knew was wild for a chance to see round the famous factory, treats were hardly uncommon for them, and the experience would soon be swallowed up in other fun things. For Charlie something like this meant the whole world and the visit would be remembered as a bright spot in a grey sky for years on end... He turned away and quickly opened it, shouting out a joyful yell of triumph... Only to turn round and state that he'd fooled them all. It was the only way he knew how to deal with the situation.
As time went on the other tickets began to be found. Charlie kept his private opinions on the various lucky children as they were revealed to himself – the second, Veruca Salt, being a spoilt brat whose parents seemed to make sure that her faintest wish was their command. Her father had put all the workers from his nut shelling factory onto opening boxes of Wonka bars for practically the whole month of June, until a ticket was found for her.
Personally Charlie thought that was cheating – maybe the chocolate bars belonged to her family, but she certainly hadn't 'found' a ticket as she said to the camera – one of the workers in her father's factory had found it! No this little girl had been given her ticket, and given it by someone who would have probably enjoyed the experience, and benefitted from it, far more.
The more he thought about it the more he wondered what on earth they had done with all the extra boxes of chocolate – what if there was another golden ticket in them and it wasn't found because they sat around unopened? Maybe the father simply made the most of it by selling them at a profit? It sounded like something the business tycoon might do! The fact that they hadn't given anyone else in the surrounding area a chance at finding the ticket as they had bought up every single bar of Wonka's chocolate in the area showed exactly how shallow and selfish the family were.
And what did they do with all the chocolate bars they had 'shelled' anyway? While it was possible to see chocolate bar wrappers scattered about the ground almost everywhere you went, it was nothing compared to the carnage the TV cameras showed in the factory. Just before the news screens switched to something else they showed someone start to sweep paper, foil and chocolate into some big bins...
The third ticket was discovered in August, by a gum chewing chatterbox called Violet Beauregarde – did she really keep her chewed gum behind her ear while she ate and on the bedpost over night for chewing on again the following morning? Chewing on the same bit of gum for over 3 months? Yuck! Who wanted to make that kind of a world record? As for her father, the man was obsessed with his business it seemed, trying to turn the interview his daughter was being given into a chance to sell some cars.
The last winner Charlie saw interviewed, during early September, was completely fanatical about TV programmes and guns. He was also incredibly rude while he was at it, he told the interviewer that he was 'Crazy,' said 'no' to turning off the TV, and even said the man should 'shut up' because Mike was 'busy.' No one would have let Charlie away with telling a grown up to wait to receive an answer, especially not just so he could continue to watch a silly TV programme.
Mike Teevee's mother simply told the interviewer that he wouldn't answer until the show was over, and that he'd never been to the table – she served him all his 'TV dinners' in front of the television set. Charlie could hardly credit how calmly the boy's parents took his behaviour – it was apparently 'normal' to them. How they could think this was acceptable Charlie wasn't sure, but they obviously did.