Matilda by author Roald Dahl, A Beloved Children’s Book!


Ah, Matilda. Just hearing that name likely brings back fond memories for many of us who grew up reading the magical story by Roald Dahl. While it’s a children’s book, Dahl’s classic tale contains so many important themes that speak to readers of all ages. Shall we take a nostalgic stroll down memory lane and explore some of the ingredients that have made Matilda such an iconic, influential, and utterly delightful story? I’m getting excited just thinking about revisiting this gem!

Matilda by author Roald Dahl

You can find Matilda by author Roald Dahl on your favorite bookstore, including and Amazon UK.

We have also reviewed another children’s favorite by Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

A Plucky Heroine Who Loved Books and Justice

One of the key factors that makes Matilda so memorable is our spunky heroine. When we first meet her, Matilda Wormwood is just five years old, but she has a powerful spirit and a sharp mind. Unlike her selfish parents and abrasive brother Michael, Matilda adores reading and learning. She’s read all the children’s books in the local library by age four and moves on to adult novels like Dickens and Hemingway!

Even at her young age, Matilda has a strong sense of justice. She can’t stand to see others mistreated, especially by aggressors like her parents and the terrible headmistress Miss Trunchbull. Matilda may be tiny, but she refuses to let bullies get away with their behavior. She stands up for what’s right!

As we’ll see, Matilda’s courage and intellect allow her to take empowering action later in the story. But even from the beginning, she inspires us with her integrity, compassion, and moral fiber. It’s no wonder readers connect with Matilda’s odyssey – she’s a brilliant underdog brimming with heart and smarts!

The Terrible Wormwoods – Matilda’s Self-Absorbed Parents

Let’s turn our attention to Matilda’s ghastly parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood. They serve as the harsh antagonists in the first half of the book, woefully neglectful and unsupportive of our clever protagonist.

The slimy car salesman Mr. Wormwood cares about little beyond making money through shady deals. Mrs. Wormwood is obsessed with bingo and TV game shows, squandering her afternoons fixated on superficial things rather than nurturing her daughter. Neither parent shows any interest in Matilda’s thirst for reading and learning.

In fact, her anti-intellectual dad even mocks and belittles her intelligence, insisting she watch more TV instead of reading. He tears up a library book in front of her horrified eyes! The selfish Wormwoods serve as the perfect foil, making us root all the more for amazing Matilda to get the respect and encouragement she deserves.

The Formidable Miss Trunchbull – Every Child’s Worst Headmistress

One of the most iconic and hilarious characters in the book is the vicious Miss Trunchbull. She’s the headmistress of Matilda’s school, Crunchem Hall, and strikes terror into the heart of every child there.

Miss Trunchbull is like every awful stereotype of mean teacher rolled into one and dialed up to eleven! She’s a hulking, muscle-bound ex-Olympian who punishes students by hurling them out windows, locking them in nail-filled boxes called “the chokey”, and other over-the-top tortures. She despises children and even makes up cruel nicknames like “grubberwarts” for them.

Miss Trunchbull provides some dark humor but also represents true adversity for our plucky protagonist to overcome. When Matilda discovers her own telekinetic powers later in the story, we can’t wait for her to give the Trunchbull her just desserts!

Matilda’s Sweet School Friend – the Lovable Lavender

Fortunately, Matilda finds a ray of light amid the gloom of Crunchem Hall in the form of her new friend Lavender. Lavender is a kind, good-natured girl who quickly befriends Matilda. She’s the first person who truly appreciates Matilda for her brilliance and individuality.

Lavender provides some levity from the weighty troubles Matilda faces. She’s impressed with Matilda’s advanced intellect but takes it in stride, giving wise counsel and loyal support. Lavender acts as the perfect confidant for Matilda to turn to when developing her psychic powers.

This warm relationship between two outcast children adds heart to the story. Lavender’s quirky personality and steadfast friendship help Matilda prepare for the bigger challenges ahead.

The Trunchbull’s Torturous Wrath Against Miss Honey

Amid the ongoing terror that is Miss Trunchbull, one of her favorite targets is the mousy teacher Miss Honey. Poor Miss Honey bears the brunt of the Trunchbull’s cruelty, humiliated and manipulated at every turn.

Miss Honey reveals that she grew up impoverished after her father died. The wicked Trunchbull is actually her aunt who took over her house and kept her in servitude as a child.

Now as an adult, Miss Honey remains timid and insecure after years of abuse. The Trunchbull exploits Miss Honey’s classroom to teach her own classes, making her prep all the lessons while refusing to pay her fairly.

Miss Honey’s mistreatment shows the vulnerable side beneath the brave faces children put up. Her backstory stirs our emotions and juices our desire to see Matilda grow empowered to conquer the Trunchbull.

Discovery of Her Own Psychic Gifts

Let’s discuss the magical realism element that adds intrigue: Matilda’s discovery that she can move objects with her mind! On her walks home from the library, she passes the rural home of an old man called Magnus. Objects would always mysteriously move when he was around.

One day Matilda concentrates hard while passing Magnus’ home and is shocked when a mug on his fence leaps into her hands! She practices this telekinesis in secret. When annoyed with her father, she uses her powers to tip his drink onto his lap from across the room.

Matilda realizes she’s somehow developed these psychic abilities from constantly using her brainpower reading. This adds a refreshing magical dimension, making us believe this brilliant child can truly move mountains and overcome all obstacles in her path.

Our protagonist first tests her powers to get back at the cruel Miss Trunchbull in one of the book’s most satisfying scenes. The Trunchbull is forcing the children to eat a massive 12-part chocolate cake in front of hungry Lavender.

That night, Matilda sneaks back into the school kitchen using her telekinesis to write a spooky message on the chalkboard from “the ghost of Crunchem Hall.” She leaves the remnants of the cake and misspells “Trunchbull” with an extra “L” in the icing.

The next day when the enraged Trunchbull sees the cake message, the kids point out her name is spelled wrong. This only makes her angrier! It’s a small but clever triumph for our heroine. Matilda is ready to unleash more of her powers against the forces of injustice.

Miss Honey’s Cottage – A Safe Haven for our Protagonist

Miss Honey recognizes Matilda’s genius and extraordinary character. She even tutors Matilda at her cottage to further nurture her gift. This cozy space becomes a sanctuary for Matilda.

Miss Honey’s humble home overflows with books and warm hospitality, unlike Matilda’s cold, empty house. Here Matilda finds the nurturing she’s been missing – bedtime stories, home-cooked meals, and acceptance for who she is.

Visiting Miss Honey’s cottage provides comfort and confidence for Matilda. It’s a quiet yet powerful turning point, preparing her for greater acts of bravery ahead.

Matilda Gets the Trunchbull Suspended – Victory at Last

In the climax, Matilda puts all her wisdom and psychic might to work getting the victory over the Trunchbull she deserves. After the wicked headmistress falsely accuses Lavender of stealing her precious jeweled brooch, Matilda uses her powers to make it seem the ghost of Miss Honey’s father Magnus is attacking her.

With the Trunchbull terrified and off balance, Matilda seizes control of the brooch and places it in Miss Trunchbull’s house. She rallies the students and teachers to stand up to the tyrant at last. They find the brooch as evidence and get the school governors to suspend the Trunchbull!

It’s an immensely gratifying turning point. We’ve been waiting for Matilda to conquer this monster, and she does so by outsmarting the Trunchbull rather than direct confrontation. Good truly triumphs over evil!

Miss Honey Adopts Our Heroine – A True Family at Last

With the Trunchbull gone, Miss Honey feels empowered herself to stand up to her abusive aunt and reclaim her house. In the end, she joyfully adopts Matilda who finally has a true, loving family and a teacher who appreciates her brilliance.

After overcoming horrible obstacles, Matilda finds where she truly belongs. Miss Honey and Matilda can now grow together, healing from the wounds of the past. It’s a beautiful, heartwarming happily ever after for these two kindred spirits.

Why this Book Inspires Readers of All Ages

Looking back at this delightful story, it’s easy to see why Matilda has enchanted generations of readers. The characters are quirky and larger-than-life, making us laugh and cheer. The themes of standing up to injustice and finding inner strength resonate universally.

The Protagonist uses courage, not violence, to defeat tyranny, making her a role model for intelligence triumphing over brute force. Her bond with Miss Honey shows the restorative power of chosen family. And Dahl’s charming wordplay and whimsical details give the story an unforgettable flair.

While aimed at children, Matilda speaks to the child inside all of us. It takes us back to the joys of literature, the wonder of narration, and the satisfaction of seeing the underdog overcome. Matilda continues to inspire courage in the face of adversity and the pursuit of knowledge to build a better world.

Final Thoughts on This Beloved Children’s Classic

Whew, quite an exhilarating nostalgia trip revisiting the magical pages of this wonderful book! While every reader’s experience is unique, Dahl gifted us such a marvelous cast of characters and compelling themes that it’s no wonder this plucky girl’s adventures delight generation after generation.

Our heroine demonstrates courage, justice, and intellect can overcome brute force – an uplifting message we need now more than ever. It speaks to the fighter spirit in all of us. No matter how young or powerless we feel, we have inner reserves of strength we can tap into, just as Matilda does with her psychic gifts.

Of course, delighting in the eccentric characters and Dahl’s playful words is thrill enough. That naughty, irreverent humor we loved as kids still makes us chuckle today. So curl up with your well-worn copy of Matilda once more or discover this beloved odyssey for the first time. That plucky girl with a heart of gold is calling to the heroines and heroes in all of us!


What was the inspiration behind Roald Dahl writing “Matilda”?

Dahl claimed his inspiration for Matilda came from a magical story his mother used to tell him as a child. It was about a young girl who had the power to lift objects with just her eyes. This fanciful tale of a child with extraordinary abilities stuck with Dahl over the years. As an author who enjoyed crafting larger-than-life characters, Dahl expanded this basic premise into Matilda’s full story – that of a brilliant, book-loving girl who develops telekinetic powers and uses them creatively to stand up against cruelty and injustice.

How autobiographical is Matilda’s character and story?

While Matilda’s family dynamic does not match Dahl’s own upbringing, certain parallels exist between Dahl and his imaginative protagonist. Like Matilda, Dahl was raised by a Norwegian mother and English father. He also had a rebellious streak against authority figures. However, Matilda’s prodigy-level intellect and psychokinetic powers were creative inventions, not real-life traits Dahl himself exhibited. Her story represents his craft and humor more than strict autobiography.

Why is Miss Trunchbull such an iconic villain?

The tyrannical school headmistress Miss Trunchbull has become one of Dahl’s most legendary villainous creations. Everything about her is over-the-top, from her hulking Olympian physique to her outrageous child-torturing punishments. Trunchbull represents the exaggerated, panto-style antagonists Dahl delighted in conjuring. She provides dark humor through her despicable cruelty. Readers love to hate her and cheer when she finally gets her comeuppance thanks to Matilda’s ingenuity.

What was Dahl’s process and approach to writing?

Dahl writing process was rather unusual. He worked in short and intense bursts rather than setting a somehow scheduled routine. He wrote on yellow legal pads in pencil, settling into a wingback chair in his writing shed. Dahl valued succinct, engaging pacing and imaginative scenarios over elaborate prose. He read draft passages aloud to test the rhythm and flow. Dahl valued memorable word combinations and invented vocabulary that gave his writing unique flair. His approach resulted in economical yet vividly crafted stories.

How was the Book first received when published?

When Matilda was first published in 1988, it received immediate praise from literary critics and readers alike. They applauded Dahl’s talent for blending humor and darker themes, creating endearing characters for children to identify with. The Book was viewed as one of Dahl’s finest works, overflowing with his signature eccentric imagination. Its themes of rebelling against injustice resonated during the social changes of the late 20th century. Matilda earned numerous accolades, establishing itself as a beloved modern classic of children’s literature.

What lasting impact has “Matilda” had on children’s literature?

Matilda helped redefine genres in children’s lit. It blended whimsical fantasy with gritty realism about social issues like bullying and neglect. This inspired more authors to tackle meaningful themes in creative ways. Matilda also provided a new model for the extraordinary child protagonist overcoming odds through courage and intellect rather than physical power. The book’s success proved insightful, resilient young heroines had mainstream appeal. Additionally, Matilda highlighted the restorative power of books and reading, values that still inspire young readers today.

Has “Matilda” influenced other media adaptations?

The Book’s impact extends beyond just literature into highly successful theater and film adaptations. The hit 1996 movie brought the story to vivid life on screen, with Mara Wilson charming audiences as Matilda. Tim Minchin’s 2010 West End musical was a critical smash, garnering dozens of major awards. It demonstrated how Dahl’s work could be reinterpreted across artistic mediums. These beloved adaptations have kept Matilda relevant and introduced her tale to new generations of fans.

What timeless lessons does this Book offer readers?

While highly entertaining, at its heart Matilda promotes uplifting values that transcend generations. It champions intellect and moral courage over brutishness. Matilda’s compassion in befriending others and standing up to bullies inspires readers to do the same. The book affirms that family can be those who nurture and accept you, not just blood relatives. And it highlights the power of imagination and learning to overcome adversity. Matilda endures through its empathy and ethos of justice.

Why is Miss Honey such a memorable teacher character?

The sweet-natured Miss Honey provides a stark contrast to the loathsome Miss Trunchbull. She recognizes the value in even her most struggling students. Her patience, academic passion, and nurturing spirit represent the best qualities of a teacher. Miss Honey’s traumatic backstory makes her integrity and warmth all the more poignant. She earns the role model status bestowed on favorite teachers we admire. Miss Honey personifies the lasting influence an educator’s kindness can have.

What notable literary devices does Dahl use in his writing?

Dahl employs many clever literary techniques that enhance his stories. He frequently uses exaggerated, darkly comedic names that match characters’ personalities. His exaggerated metaphors and analogies add humor and color. Dahl is a master of pacing, with short punchy chapters that pull readers along. Foreshadowing and irony help build suspense and surprise. And he crafts unconventional vocabulary and wordplay that become quirky catchphrases readers love repeating. These devices all amplify Dahl’s signature mischievous, engaging narrative voice.

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