41 pages 1 hour read

Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1972

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Summary and Study Guide


Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator is a work of fiction, aimed at an audience of children, written by Roald Dahl and published in 1972. It is the sequel to his 1964 work Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Beginning on the heels of the first novel’s action, it follows protagonist Charlie Bucket, his parents, and both sets of his grandparents as they shoot up into space in Wonka’s magical glass elevator. The group saves an American spaceship and escapes the clutches of Vermicious Knids, then returns to Wonka’s chocolate factory. Like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the novel prioritizes Imagination and Adventure and suggests that Greed and Gluttony Will Be Punished. The novel also, through a hyperbolically incompetent president and group of presidential advisors, represents Politicians as Ineffectual and Ridiculous.

This guide uses the 1972 hardback edition of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, published by Puffin Books.

Plot Summary

The events of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator immediately follow the events of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; the Buckets (Grandpa George, Grandma Georgina, Grandma Josephine, Mr. Bucket, and Mrs. Bucket) have just been collected by Wonka, Grandpa Joe, and Charlie in Wonka’s glass elevator, which has burst through the roof of Wonka’s factory.

The elevator continues to shoot up through the sky; soon, they are so high that the continents become visible. The Buckets begin to panic. Wonka explains that they need to travel to a high height to gather enough speed to crash back through the factory roof. Right as he is about to press the elevator’s down button, Grandma Georgina angrily grabs him, preventing him from pressing the button in time, and the elevator leaves the Earth’s atmosphere. The group, as well as the grandparents’ bed, becomes weightless. They are spotted by a group of American astronauts, who are flying a Commuter Capsule of hotel staff to the new, state-of-the-art Space Hotel “U.S.A.”

Wonka and the Buckets see Space Hotel “U.S.A.” and decide to visit it. However, the astronauts interpret their visit as a terrorist invasion of an American asset, and the action is televised to the American President, who worries that the grandparents’ bed is a bomb. Millions of people around the world tune in to watch the strange action. Wonka and the Buckets board Space Hotel “U.S.A.” and are amazed by the decadence. The President calls China and the Soviet Union, hoping to discover the nationality of the mysterious astronauts, but neither country claims them. The President designs a fly trap, which his team of advisors praise as innovative and incredible. The President addresses the group through the hotel’s loudspeaker and insists that they identify themselves. The world listens, wondering who the mysterious astronauts are (no live feed is available, but the audio is being shared live). Wonka replies in gibberish. The President and his team of advisors decide that the visitors must be aliens and invite them to the White House.

In the hotel, elevator doors open to reveal a group of aliens. The aliens, who have the ability to stretch to any shape, form the word SCRAM. Wonka and the Buckets rush back to the elevator; Wonka explains that the aliens are Vermicious Knids, and that they are extremely dangerous and strong. The Vermicious Knids pursue the elevator as they attempt to escape, doing a lap around the Earth. They manage to shake off most of their pursuers, but one determined and vicious Knid follows them. They arrive back at the hotel and see that the Vermicious Knids are now attacking the Commuter Capsule. The Capsule docked to the hotel, and a number of people were attacked and eaten by the Knids.

Charlie says they should help; the Commuter Capsule has lost its rockets and can’t escape. Charlie, Grandpa Joe, and Wonka steer the elevator into the fray and attach a cable to the Commuter Capsule. They tow it back into the Earth’s atmosphere, where Vermicious Knids who have attached themselves to the elevator burn up. They release the Commuter Capsule, which has parachutes to enable it to land safely, and crash back through the roof of Wonka’s factory.

Wonka urges the bedbound grandparents to get up and help around the factory, but they are reluctant. He suggests that they take one or two Wonka-Vite pills, which have an anti-aging effect (20 years for each pill). The three grandparents selfishly grab at the pill bottle, and each takes four pills. Grandpa George and Grandma Josephine become crying babies. Grandma Georgina, who was 78, ceases to exist, and Wonka and Charlie go to rescue her from Minusland, a strange and mysterious land at the bottom of Wonka’s factory. On their way there, Wonka and Charlie see a number of landscapes speed by, including mines and oil derricks producing candy and chocolate. They find Grandma Georgina in the swirling mists of Minusland and spray her with Vita-Wonk, which ages her again. They return upstairs and find that Grandma Georgina has accidentally been over-aged; she is 358. Wonka gives her Wonka-Vite to de-age her back to 78; Grandpa George and Grandma Josephine are given small amounts of Vita-Wonk to return to their previous ages (80 and 81).

A helicopter arrives with a letter from the President, inviting the group to stay at the White House, where a celebration and awards ceremony will be held in their honor. Grandpa George, Grandma Georgina, and Grandma Josephine are finally convinced to get out of their bed, as it won’t fit on the helicopter. They spring out energetically and run toward the helicopter.

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