In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka says

I don't want a grown-up person at all. A grownup won't listen to me; he won't learn. He will try to do things his own way and not mine. So I had to have a child. I want a good sensible loving child [...]

and Charlie responds,

So that is why you sent out the Golden Tickets!

To which Wonka replies,

Exactly! I decided to invite five children to the factory, and the one I liked best at the end of the day would be the winner!

But what has always puzzled me, is how did sending out Golden Tickets ensure that children, and not grown-ups, would win? Lots of grown-ups certainly tried to find the Tickets; how could Wonka know that none of them would get one? Has there ever been an explanation given for this?

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    @Hamlet they can be, and are elsewhere, handled very well, based on available information and not pure speculation, producing high-quality answers, and on the whole involving substantially less utter nonsense than the concept of "the deeper meaning of literature" does.
    – hobbs
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 23:27
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    @Hamlet definitely disagree with you on that account. Not every question needs to be deep and life changing. I find question like this cool because you would think it would be obvious that he would explain it, Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 0:21
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    I realize that my previous comment was poorly worded, so here is the new version of my comment. I encourage you to check out the meta post Thoughts on “why didn't character x act rationally” questions?. Essentially, the problem with these questions is that they assume that the author is constructing a logically consistent universe, when in fact being logically consistent is usually the last thing on the author's mind.
    – user111
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 0:37
  • @Hamlet If Dahl had even said something as preposterous as "candy is poisonous to adults" it still would be more than we have now. There is a difference between being inconsistent and nonexistent. Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 1:00
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    @HannoverFist - speak for yourself! I would be quite interested in a a tour!
    – NiceOrc
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 1:08

6 Answers 6


Strictly speaking, an adult does find one of them. One of the women working at the factory of Veruca Salt's father is the person who opens the particular candy bar with the Golden Ticket.

But Mr. Wonka is explicit, as hobbs correctly notes, in saying that only five children would be allowed on the tour (with one or two guardians apiece). So while technically this Rosie the Walnut-Sheller would be allowed into the factory, it would be whatever child she brought with her who would be taking the tour (and competing for the prize).


As far as I can see, it isn't addressed anywhere in the book. It's possible that Wonka simply assumed that all candy bars are bought by children — it's a children's book, and seems to be full of generalizations like that. But there is one other bit that sheds some light. The newspaper story announcing the golden tickets before the chocolate bars containing them were actually distributed begins with

I, Willy Wonka, have decided to allow five children — just five, mind you, and no more — to visit my factory this year.

Which makes it clear that only children will be allowed. It's not clear exactly what would happen if an adult were to claim one of the tickets, but we can imagine that Wonka would engineer some situation or other to prevent an adult from entering his factory.

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    I don't know if he would need to "engineer a situation" to prevent an adult from taking the tour; perhaps the rules stated that only children were eligible. I don't have a book on hand, but did the Golden Tickets say anything about eligible ages? Or maybe the terms and conditions were written elsewhere in a way that excluded adults
    – Shokhet
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 0:51
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    @Shokhet the full Golden Ticket text is too long to post here, but the only part that seems to hint at being meant for children is near the end: "And you are allowed to bring with you either one or two members of your own family to look after you and to ensure that you don't get into mischief"
    – kristan
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 1:07
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    I think your statement that "it's a children's book ... full of generalizations like that" is they key. Dahl's fairy-tale worlds have their own internal logic, much of which is driven by a strong line between "kid" behaviors and "grown up" behaviors.
    – Kevin Troy
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 6:47

Because it's a fairy tale.

I know that's not a long enough answer to satisfy the SE gods. But it really is all there answer there is. Fairy tales follow fairy tale logic and fairy tale logic is moral, not physical. The five children were chosen by a moral logic that selected one representative of virtue and four representatives of vice, and, most importantly, the representative of virtue had no idea that he, and he alone, was the representative of virtue, for that is one of the essential qualities of virtue in the moral order of fairy tales.

That's why.

Any other explanation is illogical because it imposes a non-fairytale logic on a fairytale, and the only logic that applies to fairytales, and which applies with iron ferocity in fairytales, is moral logic. Thus no agency was required for the tickets to find their intended recipients; it is morally impossible that they should have been found by anyone else.

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    The Doylist complement to my Watsonian answer. :) Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 10:27
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    My personal opinion is that this is the only real answer to the question. The question assumes that the author intended to make a perfectly consistent universe, but in reality, that's definitely not true.
    – user80
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 11:54

By the same logic, why does he leave it up to chance who will find them in the first place, given that he was clearly looking for a specific type of child to visit him? After all, the primary purpose of this was to select a successor - selecting 5 kids at full random and choosing his favorite seems like a very odd way to choose a successor (especially given that 4 out of the 5 - 80% of the candidates - were clearly completely unsuitable).

It's unknown the extent to which Wonka was leaning on the process (if he was at all). The fact that Violet's father had his entire factory looking for the Wonka bar would suggest that that one at least wasn't the result of him leaning on the process, but it's quite plausible that Charlie's was no accident. (After all, the previous 4 did seem to be unsuitable for some rather obvious reasons even just based on the news coverage of them, so it would seem rather absurd for him not to make any effort to lean on the results of the final one). Obviously, the text doesn't directly answer that, though.

That being said, the rules of the contest do specify that only children were permitted to win the contest, so presumably if an adult had found the ticket they would've been obliged to give it to a child.

Given the previous facts, though, another possible answer is that "he assumed that children would win for the same reason that he believed that at least one of the winners would be suitable to be a successor." This suggests that either the process wasn't as random as it looked, or that the author simply intended for us to suspend our disbelief on the point.

It is, of course, possible that it really was sheer good luck on Wonka's part, or that he believed that 5 children was enough to give him good odds of finding at least one suitable successor; by sheer statistical odds, that would require that at least 20% of the world's children (1/5) were suitable as successors (i.e. had the characteristics he was looking for). Maybe he was optimistic that a kid who hadn't been "spoiled" yet could be trained to be his next successor.

One final possibility (and this is obviously speculative): it's quite possible that there was a "Plan B" to find a successor if this plan didn't work out. If Charlie had ended up not working out, then maybe he would've just run another contest or something like that to get more candidates.

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    Of course, Willy Wonka is a bit eccentric to say the least, it's just as plausible that he thought this might be a good way to choose a successor and was lucky that Charlie showed up and not another entitled spoilt brat. (In any case, while Charlie is a nice guy, he's far from proven in the field of food industry management)
    – komodosp
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 9:24

The assumption is that this type of candy is purchased by children and certainly more so during a lottery. However, in theory, the rules did not prohibit adults from winning.

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    Is this your assumption or is it based upon something in the book? If the latter, please give the basis for the assumption.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 9:54

Times have changed. In the 1960s it was far more unusual for an adult to eat chocolate bars than it would be today.

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    Any evidence or quotes on the matter? Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 1:10

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