Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a banned book, how can that be? If you saw the movie you might be pondering that question. Many of the controversial issues were cleaned up in the original movie version with Gene Wilder playing the part of the strange and reclusive Mr. Wonka. However, it was not until after the movie was released that children's author Eleanor Cameron issued her negative commentary on the original book.
The controversy settles around the depiction of the Oompa-Loompas as small Africans (Pygmies)who live in the factory, work for cacao beans, and sing songs that were comparable to war chants. Dahl relates that he never realized that the depiction of the “charming fantasy creatures” would be viewed as racist. He responded by changing the description of the workers in his 1988 revision. The Oompa-Loompas were now described as “knee-high dwarves” with “rosy-white” skin and funny long “golden-brown” hair who came from “Loompaland.”
If you examine the original and the ensuing revisions of the book, you will find illustrations that show the metamorphosis of the Oompa-Loopas. In 1964, they were black African pymgies, who changed to colorless dwarf-like people, to finally, in 1988, to simple cartoon-like beings with hair that points straight-up to the sky.
However, even with the changes in 1988, the controversies were not resolved. In that same year, a Boulder, Colorado librarian actually locked the book in the reference collection because “ the book espouses a poor philosophy of life.” By this time the racist descriptions and illustrations had been changed.
It is not known exactly what was the “poor philosophy of life.” Perhaps it was that Charlie was an undeserving hero. Charlie has no “tremendously positive traits, only an absence of negative ones.” This void was resolved by the movie makers when Charlie was caught making mistakes, but managed to learn from them and thus distinguish himself from the other winners of golden tickets. Another case of Hollywood changing a story to include a high moral message to the audience (Source: Pierce, Cassandra., “Charlie and the Political-Correctness Factory”.)
Want to check out Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at CDPL? Click here.