"Willy Wonka" Characters: Veruca Salt

by Andy Klaus

"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" by British author Roald Dahl has been translated into multiple languages and reprinted across the globe. Additionally, it has been adapted into two separate movies. At first glance, it is easy to dismiss the character Veruca Salt as little more than a snotty child. However, in both the book and on the screen, she is a character surrounded with controversy.

Veruca Salt at a Glance

At first glance, the character of Veruca Salt represents the epitome of the spoiled brat. She has been given everything she asks for by her well-to-do father and mother and does nothing but complain. In the movie adaptation, she even goes as far as describing the workers who laboriously search after-hours for her winning ticket as jealous. Her greed and impatience create a character that demands the world on a platter. She doesn't just want everything, she wants it now. In the book, her impertinent demands and horrible behavior earn her a trip down a garbage chute. Given such an easy picture of the rotten child, it would be easy enough to stop the analysis there.

Greed and Envy Personified

It is possible to see a metaphor where Willy Wonka represents Satan and the Chocolate Factory represents Hell. Dahl reinforces this metaphor describing it as being mostly underground. The fact that it is full of candy is a clear symbol of the temptations of sin. In this perspective, Veruca Salt is the personification of the sins of greed and envy. She is tempted by a wondrous land full of everything a girl could want, from the coy Oompa Loompas to the talented squirrels (or the golden geese in the first movie adaptation). Failing to overcome her greed, she goes down a chute, to either join garbage or be burned alive. Either outcome is highly symbolic of a journey to perdition.

The "Lolita" Figure

Veruca Salt's domineering nature over her father is clear in the book as she demands the impossible and gets it with little argument. However, the first movie adaptation carries the relationship further. In the scene where both characters are introduced, her father is in a spineless crouched pose, while Veruca sits in the boss' chair. Behind her on the wall is a peanut pod, stating clearly that she is in charge of her father's nuts, both literally and metaphorically. This abusive semi-incestuous nature is reinforced by her father's constant tendency to call her sweetheart, even as she is berating him. She seems to realize the power of the word "Daddy" as she uses it to finish nearly every sentence. Ultimately, she relies on him to service her various needs, manipulating him with contradicting words of love and guilt, much like the classic Nobokov character.

Exploring the Name

Veruca Salt has an interesting name worthy of examination. Given that a verruca is a type of painful wart that commonly grows on a person's feet or posterior, it is no surprise that Dahl would chose a similar first name indicating that she was literally and figuratively a pain in the butt, or perhaps painfully underfoot. Though the name Salt, at first glance seems an obvious tie to the family nut business, it might also represent that Veruca's personality is like salt in an open wound. Ironically, salt is sometimes used in an open verruca to get rid of it, making her name hearken to a painful wart removal.

About the Author

Andy Klaus started his writing career contributing science and fiction articles to Dickinson High School's newsletters back in 1984. Since then, he has authored novels and written technical books for health-care companies such as VersaSuite. He has covered topics varying from aerospace to zoology and received an associate degree in science from College of the Mainland.