Abstract: Dionysos and Willy Wonka, Wine and Chocolate

The Greek god Dionysos is capricious.  He is insecure in his power and place among the Olympian gods, and he punishes severely those mortals who do not recognize his power.  Furthermore, he makes available to humans the most magical of gifts (wine); then brutally punishes those who do not respect its power.  This lecture is an investigation of the god Dionysos, presenting him as a flawed character who abuses those who resist him in unnecessarily cruel ways because of his own insecurities.  I make this point by comparing Dionysos to a character from more contemporary literature, the chocolatier Willy Wonka from the Roald Dahl children’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964).  Wonka, I argue, is a gifted candy-maker but also a megalomanic.  Like Dionysos, he is unstable and insecure.  He tests the loyalty of his fans, giving them unfettered access to his addictive chocolate, then severely punishing those who overindulge.  Willy Wonka (and particularly his contest to determine who should inherit his chocolate factory) is a character (and story line) straight out of Greek mythology. A comparison of the two highlights the timeless and universal struggles of power, resistance and punishment.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Euripides, The Bacchae

Roald Dahl, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1964) (or the movie)

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