Racial Innocence: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
One text I found that highlights racial innocence in a contemporary children’s text is Roald Dahl’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This book is about a young boy named Charlie Bucket who is poor and wins a golden ticket that brings him to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. At the factory he is accompanied by his Grandpa Joe, other children, and their adult companions. As this group of people travel through the factory they occasionally see the little workers called Oompa-Loompas. According to Corbin’s research article in the Berkeley McNair Research Journal, the depiction of the Oompa-Loompas has changed since the book has originally published in 1964 throughout the various revised texts and films (48). The Oompa-Loompas were originally seen as “black Pygymy people from Africa” (48). However they begin to change throughout the text and filmed texts as stated by Corbin:
Yet, in 1971 Mel Stuart’s film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory the Oompa-Loompas are portrayed as little people with orange skin and green hair. In Dahl’s 1973 revision he depicts the Oompa-Loompas as white. Finally, in the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) Tim Burton portrays the Oompa-Loompas as brown skin people (48).
After reading Corbin’s research article about the historical and political contexts behind Dahl’s book I can understand why changes were made. Change in perspectives and events that occur affect how people view a text. The racial innocence does not just come from the fact that there was a need to change how the skin color Oompa-Loompas looked like, but the original fact that they became the workers in Willy Wonka’s factory. They were originally hired because his employees were stealing his recipes. As Corbin states, in her article the Oompa-Loompas were smuggled by Wonka from Africa (53). There is a clear connection that race is deeply rooted in the text.
One point I noticed is that when the Oompa-Loompas were brought to films, these “little people” suffer from dwarfism, a medical disorder which results in a shorter height. The book depicts Wonka as a person who gives these people jobs, but this does not hide the fact that they are always hidden within the factory. They are not seen in public and this implies a social discrimination towards them in the society of the book. The Oompa-Loompas do not have a voice in the text and are considered at Wonka’s employees.
Corbin, Chryl. “Deconstructing Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory: Race, Labor, and the Changing Depictions of the Oompa-Loompas.” The Berkeley McNair Research Journal 19 (2012): 47-63. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
Dahl, Roald, and Joseph Schindelman. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1964. Print.