The other day I found myself musing how much fun Shakespeare would have with the assorted knaves, brigands, fools, strumpets, cutpurses and buffoons in our sight today.
Then I noticed “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is on Broadway, and I flicked on the Web and saw a familiar facial expression – a sullen youth who can never get enough, of anything.
These are all stock characters for the ages, from the open-air theaters of London in the 16th and 17th Century to the films and plays today.
Roald Dahl captured it in his book that inspired the movie with Gene Wilder, leading to the Broadway musical of today. Dahl created a character described on the school-prep web site, gradesaver.com
Gloop is incredibly greedy and the first child to find a Golden Ticket. He is also the first child to fail Wonka’s tests. Gloop eats an extraordinary amount of chocolate, so much that his mother says it would have been impossible for him not to have eventually found a Golden Ticket. While his origin is unknown in the book, he tends to be thought of as German, since he is from Germany in both movies. His mother seems to delight in her son’s gluttonous habits and encourages them. Augustus leaves the factory when he drinks from the chocolate river, and falls in, getting sucked up a pipe and sent to the Fudge Room.
These days we have a public figure, indulged by his family but, when he was discovered hiding knives, was banished to a military school, hence the unsated appetite for attention, for love, for respect.
The irony is that in the original movie, the Gloop family hails from Bavaria. Today the leader of Germany is a dignified woman who has put up with two boy-men presidents from America.
And by the way, the comparison of Dahl’s Gloop and our current Gloop is not about excess weight – it’s the neediness, the meanness, the emptiness.
Our Gloop is capable of generosity, but only to himself and his associates for the moment, as witnessed by his proposed plan that would cut taxes for the gunnysack guys he has assembled -- people like him.
Going on 100 days, I am waiting for a Willy Wonka figure to emerge from Congress and inspect the new Augustus Gloop with a gimlet eye.
Savvy Europeans have figured out Ivanka the Brand; one of these days maybe some law agency will take a look at Jared Kushner and his dodgy investors.
As for our contemporary Gloop, where, when we really need it, is the pipe to the Fudge Room?
(check out the antlers over the newscaster's head)
"Among the things that have long fascinated people about Jesus and explain his enduring appeal is his method of dialogue and teaching. "He asked a lot of questions and told a lot of stories in the form of parables. In fact, parables form about a third of Jesus’ recorded teachings. The Gospels were written decades after he died, so his questions and parables clearly left a deep impression on those who bore testimony to him....
"Some of Jesus’ questions were rhetorical; others were meant to challenge or even provoke. In some cases, Jesus used questions to parry attacks by religious authorities who set traps for him. In others, he used questions to enter more fully into the lives of others and to help people look at the state of their hearts. He asked people about their fears and their faith. Jesus used questions to free a woman caught in adultery from condemnation and to inquire whether people considered him to be the Messiah. He probed deeply into questions not many had asked before him, like “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
---(Peter Wehner, long-time White House consultant and writer, in the NYT last week about Jesus Christ’s method of teaching by asking questions.)
"Would that I could mention all the illuminating details in this biography, for example, why Wells praised Black Americans so highly, saying, 'I took a mighty liking to these gentle, human, dark-skinned people,' and 'Whatever America has to show in heroic living today, I doubt if she can show anything finer than the quality of the resolve, the steadfast efforts hundreds of black and colored men are making today to live blamelessly, honorably and patiently, getting by themselves what scraps of refinement, beauty and learning they may, keeping their hold on a civilization they are grudged and denied.''
-- "How H.G. Wells Predicted the 20th Century," Charles Johnson, NYT Book Review, Nov. 19, 2021. ***".
...the monsters arrive."
"They come in a deafening, surging swarm, blasting from lawn to lawn and filling the air with the stench of gasoline and death. I would call them mechanical locusts, descending upon every patch of gold in the neighborhood the way the grasshoppers of old would arrive, in numbers so great they darkened the sky, to lay bare a cornfield in minutes. But that comparison is unfair to locusts.
"Grasshoppers belong here. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers are invaders, the most maddening of all the maddening, environment-destroying tools of the American lawn-care industry."
---The great Margaret Renkl, from Nashville, one of my favorite NYT bylines, Oct. 26, 2021.
(She describes our Long Island enclave to every decibel, every stink.)