I was chatting with my best friend about politics a while back and what it is that makes this country of ours so great. Living in a capitalistic society, I find that most people enjoy the lifestyle available to them in our country. If you have money, you can do with it as you wish. You can invest in CDs (not the musical ones), or purchase a motorcycle instead. It’s your call. It’s your money. Being a reading teacher, the next logical thought to pop into my head was, ‘What fictional character really embodies capitalism?’
I had to sit and think about it for a few minutes and after mentally sifting through my favorite books with characters that I felt really embodied capitalism, I came to the conclusion that Willy Wonka is easily the all-time greatest capitalist in literature.
Here a few qualities and behaviors that I felt really set Willy Wonka apart from his competition:
1. Willy Wonka defines the word ‘eccentric’. The greatest capitalists in the real world have always thought outside the box. Bill Gates sat around writing code that only a handful of computer hobbyists seemed to appreciate at the time. People scoffed at Sir Richard Branson’s record store. A little place called Virgin. He’s doing all right for himself.
Willy Wonka tops everyone on the list of the world’s richest people in eccentricity. In his factory, people can paddle down rivers of chocolate and eat anything – anything – in a candy-filled room. He makes bubble gum that chews like a meal and has a legion of little orange men in overalls at his beck-and-call. Now that’s what I call thinking outside the box. As business savvy as Sir Branson is, he still hasn’t created an edible private jet… that I know of.
2. Globalization has slowed some industries down in the States. You can see the effects of outsourcing down the road from my house in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Everyone walks down the sidewalk with their heads down and their hands in the pockets. It’s always cold and everyone wears a scarf that they need to tighten when the wind picks up. It’s like The Grapes of Wrath around this place. But, from a business standpoint, it always makes sense to produce something cheaper, even if you have to go somewhere else to do it. Those are the facts.
No one felt the squeeze of corporate outsourcing more than the Bucket family when Grandpa Joe was laid off by none other than Willy Wonka himself. By hiring the locals, Willy opened himself up to competitors’ spies who stole his recipes and ideas and cost him boatloads of money. So what did he do? In a fit of bitter rage he fired all of his employees, went to Loompaland and hired the best employees a candy magnate could hope for: People who work for cocoa beans biweekly. Yes, Oompa Loompas. That’s ruthless business at its best.
3. Willy Wonka did not want to share his wealth. He was a greedy old man, just like your grandpa is. Whether it was by personal choice or lack of time or whatever conclusions you may draw, Willy never managed to settle down and start a family. That of course means no heir apparent to take over the ol’ family business. Maybe a little lack of foresight, but boy, I bet his life was a lot easier without having to raise a kid who also had to become the crown prince of candy. Let someone else raise the kid for you, then choose who you want to take over by bringing in gluttonous kids from all over the globe to unwittingly compete for the right to intern at the world’s greatest chocolate factory. The hours weren’t too bad and the benefits were exceptional, but I hear those Oompa Loompas stunk to high heaven.
So, any other thoughts on a character in literature who could challenge Mr. Wonka as a capitalistic icon?