Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a 1964 book by Roald Dahl, tells the story of a reclusive confectioner who invites five children to visit his mysterious and eccentric chocolate factory. The tale has thrilled fans for generations, not only through Dahl's original iteration, but also through two films: 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and its 2005 remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Many have long perceived the factory's owner Willy Wonka as a quirky, elusive character who doesn't appear overly fond of children, despite seeking one to serve as an heir to his candy-making empire. The famous confectioner is played by Gene Wilder in the original '70s film and by Johnny Depp in the 2005 remake, and while their interpretations of the character differ, both are sardonically irreverent. So much so that, over the years, fans have concocted various increasingly dark interpretations of the story, one of which even paints Wonka as a prolific child slayer.
Each of the children who navigates Wonka's factory is implied to meet a grisly off-screen fate, much to the complete indifference and subtle delight of Wonka. While the notion may sound outlandish, credible evidence suggests Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a thinly veiled case study into the mind of a tormented and unbalanced evil genius.
Willy Wonka's world-famous factory - which appears completely abandoned at the start of the film - was once open to outside employees; however, several of those employees were spies working for competing confectioners who took many of Wonka's ingenious candy-making ideas.
Wonka eventually becomes fed up with the deception and closes the factory to the public. From then on, his only employees are the trustworthy Oompa Loompas, unseen by civilians until the children's fateful factory visit.
When Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory begins, Wonka has remained out of the public eye for years. Some theorize that, as a wronged and ethically dubious genius, he only issues the golden tickets as a means to exact his revenge on humankind, seeking out random victims to terrify and ultimately eliminate.
When the children are inside the factory - and starting to experience mishaps that Wonka clearly anticipates - he fails to stop the children from engaging in risky behavior. The closest he comes to preventing the children's suffering is the instance in which he excitedly chides Augustus Gloop, who is drinking from Wonka's one-of-a-kind chocolate river: "Augustus, please don't do that! My chocolate must never be touched by human hands!"
Even in this case, Wonka is not overly concerned with Augustus's fate, only that of his chocolate. As Augustus slips beneath the river's surface, his mother implores Wonka to do something, to which the candy-maker answers with deadpan affect, "Help. Police." Gloop and all others are powerless to prevent Augustus's chocolatey demise - the child is eventually transported via tube to the "fudge room" and, while Wonka instructs one of the Oompa Loompas to retreive him, the audience never hears from Augustus or his mother again.
As for the rest of the children, Wonka is equally flippant when they encounter misfortune.
Willy Wonka's factory is rife with health and safety violations, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. From the factory's lack of guardrails to its untested and unregulated food being stored in the open air - and also eaten - Wonka would be fined considerably by OSHA, if his factory avoided being shut down entirely.
In addition, he fails to sterilize the chocolate river into which Augustus falls. The child's germs could easily contaminate the chocolate river, rendering its output inedible. Worse yet, pieces of Augustus - should he meet his ultimate fate in the fudge room's boiler - could make their way into the candy, a theory some fans genuinely believe.
After his candy recipes are leaked to competitors, Wonka fires all of his employees; however, to continue production, his factory still requires labor. According to him, he struck a deal with an indigenous tribe of Oompa Loompas hailing from Loompaland, a little-known country that Wonka describes as underdeveloped and treacherous.
He brings them all to his chocolate factory, enlisting them as live-in employees who are paid in cocoa beans, a delicacy in their native land. This convenient agreement only represents Wonka's side of the story, however. Because the Oompa Loompas are ultimately enslaved by Wonka and his apparent savior complex, they may have endured considerable mistreatment, longing for the freedom and familiar culture of their homeland.