Whether encountered as a movie or novel, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a childhood staple of postwar Anglophone culture. Originally published in 1964, Dahl’s story of “Willie Wonka” is a morality tale for our times addressed by the present essay in relation to the precariousness, violence, intergenerational faith, and materialist fantasies reflective of contemporary life in the early twenty-first century. Compensating for the precarity of contemporary life’s impoverishment as assumptions of societal stability are overthrown, this chronicle of the Bucket family details: envious desire validated by large group chosen trauma; authoritarian enslavement of inferior, colonized peoples with murderous, industrial-level human experimentation; toward gratification of the greedy fantasy of unlimited sweetness under the sway of lethal identification with the aggressor.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Anderson, E., & Cissna, K. (1957). The Martin Buber–Carl Rogers dialogue: A new transcript with commentary (p. 1997). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bion, W. R. (1962). The psycho-analytic study of thinking. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 43, 306–310.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Bion, W. R., & Bion, F. (2005). The Tavistock seminars. London: Karnac.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Burton, T. (2005). Charlie and the chocolate factory (motion picture). US: Warner Bros.

  5. Cervantes, M. (1605). Don Quixote (E. Grossman, Trans., p. 2003). New York: Harper Collins.

  6. Dahl, R. (1964). Charlie and the chocolate factory. New York: Alfred Knopf.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Eco, U. (1985). On ‘Krazy Kat’ and ‘Peanuts’. The New York Review of Books, 32(10), 16–17.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Frankfort, H. (2005). On Bullshit. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Freud, S. (1900). The interpretation of dreams. Standard edition (Vols. 4–5, pp. 1–627). London: Hogarth.

  10. Freud, S. (1910). Five lectures on psycho-analysis. Standard edition (Vol. 11, pp. 1–56). London: Hogarth.

  11. Freud, S. (1911). Formulations on the two principles of mental functioning. Standard edition (Vol. 12, pp. 213–226). London: Hogarth.

  12. Freud, S. (1919). The “Uncanny”. Standard edition (Vol. 17, pp. 217–252). London: Hogarth.

  13. Freud, S (1923). The infantile genital organization. Standard edition (Vol. 19, pp. 139–146). London: Hogarth.

  14. Jones, A. (General Editor) (1968). The Jerusalem Bible. Reader’s edition. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

  15. Kilborne, B. (2014). Trauma and the unconscious: Double conscience, the uncanny and cruelty. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 74, 4–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Lasch, C. (1979). The culture of narcissism. New York: W. W. Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Margulies, S., Wolper, D. (Producers), & Stuart, M. (Director). (1971). Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory (motion picture). US: Paramount.

  18. Miller, I. (2015). On minding and being minded: Experiencing Bion and Beckett. London: Karnac.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Rank, O. (1914). The double. A psychoanalytic study (edited by H. Tucker, Jr., Trans., p. 1971). Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

  20. Schulz, C. (1950–2000). Peanuts. US: United Features Syndicate. 1950–2011. Universal Uclick. 2011–present.

  21. Volkan, V. (2001). Transgenerational transmissions and chosen traumas: An aspect of large-group identity. Group Analysis, 34, 79–97.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Volkan, V. (2013). Large-group-psychology in its own right: Large-group identity and peace-making. International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 10, 210–246.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Who exactly are the 1%? (2012, January 21). The Economist.

  24. Winnicott, D. W. (1949). Hate in the counter-transference. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 30, 69–74.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ian S. Miller.

Additional information

Address correspondence to Ian S. Miller, Ph.D., Kilmainham Congregational Church, Inchicore Rd., Dublin 8, Ireland; email:

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Miller, I.S. READING WILLY WONKA IN THE ERA OF ANTI-THINKING. Am J Psychoanal 78, 113–125 (2018).

Download citation


  • Willy Wonka
  • precarity
  • intergenerational
  • chosen trauma
  • fantasy
  • identification