01 September 2014

That Charlie Chapter

This weekend the Guardian printed a chapter from an early draft of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with new illustrations by Quentin Blake.

And it was crap.

And Dahl knew it was crap. He heavily rewrote this chapter. Comparing it to the novel’s final text shows that Dahl recognized that it was more effective to have five children with particular personalities touring the Wonka factory instead of ten, with two peeled off at each stop. He realized that showing children punished for simple disobedience instead of failings specific to each child would get repetitive. Dahl saw those problems, fixed them in a revision, and filed these early pages away.

In promoting this publication, the Guardian stated:
A lost chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, deemed too wild, subversive and insufficiently moral for the tender minds of British children almost 50 years ago, has been published for the first time.
On first reading, that suggests the chapter was suppressed for being “too wild, subversive, and insufficiently moral.” In fact, it was suppressed by the author for being crap.

The finished book was what ran into trouble when Dahl tried to find a British publisher. Though set in Britain, it took three years after its publication in New York before a London publisher took a chance on Charlie.

That comes from a longer and more thoughtful article by Lucy Mangan, presumably adapted from her book Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory.

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