Matilda by Roald Dahl: Literary Analysis

Written by Roald Dahl and published by Jonathan Cape in 1988, the story Matilda tells about a smart and genius girl by the name of Matilda Wormwood.

Summary of the Plot

Written by Roald Dahl and published by Jonathan Cape in 1988, the story Matilda tells about a smart and genius girl by the name of Matilda Wormwood. Her father sells used cars and her mother is a bingo game addict. Her older brother, Michael, is more respected and loved by her parents, as compared to her.  Matilda loves reading books so much that she asks for books from her parents. Being turned down and ignored by her parents, Matilda sneaks to a library every time her parents are not around. One day, Matilda manages to solve her older brother’s arithmetic problem. However, her parents accuse her of cheating. Matilda then feels dissatisfied and launches a series of pranks to her parents. She puts superglue on her father’s hat, leaving him no choice but to cut off his own hair, adds her mother’s hair dye to the oil that her father puts in his hair, dyeing it hideous color, and hides a parrot in the chimney so that when it talks, the family into believing the house is haunted by a ghost and feels scared. She manages do so without getting caught. When she enters school, Matilda’s prodigious quality is witnessed by her class teacher, Miss Jenny Honey, who then recommends her to be placed in more advanced classes. However, the cold-hearted principal, Miss Trunchbull rejects Miss Honey’s suggestion because she doesn’t like children. Even Matilda’s parents do not bother about their daughter’s splendid intelligence. One day, when Matilda’s friend, Lavender, puts a newt into Miss Trunchbull’s glass, Matilda is blamed by Miss Trunchbull. Matilda discovers her psychokinetic powers when she manages to tip over Miss Trunchbull’s glass.  When Matilda learns that Miss Honey is poorly mistreated by Miss Trunchbull, Miss Honey’s aunt, Matilda plans a revenge on her. Matilda disguises herself as a ghost and uses her psychokinetic power to write a message with chalk, asking Miss Trunchbull to give her home and money that belong to Miss Honey and leave for good. On the next day, Miss Trunchbull disappears and Miss Honey gets her properties back. One day, Matilda finds her family packing their belongings. They are running away because Mr. Wormwood’s illegal activity is discovered by the police. Matilda begs their parents to let her stay with Miss Honey. Her parents, without second thought, agree immediately and leave her under Miss Honey’s care. Life will surely be better for Matilda with a loving teacher and without her grouchy parents.


                In the story Matilda, there are many themes that can be found. Some of them include the conflicts between adults and children, good triumphs over evil and children’s fantasy.

                Conflicts in adult and child relationship can be seen from many characters’ perspectives. Every child has inevitable relationships or conflicts with adults throughout their lives. In every relationship, only adults own the power and control over children. Matilda’s relationship with her parents is unpleasant because her opinions and perspectives are always rejected by her parents. This is apparent when her ability to solve arithmetic problem is regarded as cheating by them. Besides, when Miss Honey tells Matilda’s parents about her prodigious talent, they refuse to believe it. Thus, Matilda always feels ignored and unwanted by her parents. Matilda also receives the same power abuse by the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. She is looked down by Miss Trunchbull and thus she does not like her. Her father and Miss Trunchbull has the same saying “I’m big, you’re small” to her, reminding her that adults are in charge of everything, not children. On the other hand, Miss Honey is impressed with Matilda’s brilliance and believes that she is unique and special. Therefore, she loves to be around Miss Honey because there is power shift and tolerance seen in Matilda and Miss Honey’s relationship. Matilda represents every child with a message that they need attention and understanding from adults.

                Another theme is good triumphs over evil. As we know, every bad people will eventually receive equal punishment based on their misdoings and good people will always have to persevere first and then be rewarded. Matilda’s ignorant parents finally have to flee the country because of their misdeeds and Miss Trunchbull disappears because of her cruelty to children. Meanwhile, Matilda gets to live with her favorite teacher, Miss Honey and lives happily after facing troubles made by her parents and headmistress.

                The theme of fantasy never fails to amuse children. In this story, use of fantasy can be seen in Matilda, an amazing child in extraordinary circumstances. Matilda’s prodigious talent is absolutely a fantasy because it is not possible that a child can learn all by herself at the age at 2 years. Furthermore, the fact that she reads all the books in the library seems unrealistic. Besides, Matilda’s psychokinetic ability is also impossible but it will surely capture the readers’ interests.

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1 Comment
  1. Posted November 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    this is really good imformation

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