"But that's dishonest, daddy," Matilda said. "It's cheating." "No one ever got rich being honest."
Here we see the vast divide between Matilda and her family. Whilst Matilda is portrayed as being very honest and innocent, her father is corrupt and immoral. There is a contrast between their natures, and this further highlights the fact that Matilda has never felt like she belongs. Moreover, her father feels no guilt for his actions and instead takes pride in his cunning, which further highlights his immorality. This fits with one of the book's core messages: that adults are not necessarily more moral or rational than children, and that age does not always lead to wisdom.
"Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog.”
In this scene, Matilda displays her wisdom by pinpointing the philosophy that drives Miss Trunchbull's actions. Miss Trunchbull treats the children at Crunchem Hall so outrageously that no one, including their parents, believes them when they tell the stories. This allows her to get away with almost anything she wants, since if her actions were any less extreme the children's parents might believe them and do something about it. Matilda has a knack for understanding the way people's minds work, which is an important kind of wisdom that is often overlooked.
“You seemed so far away," Miss Honey whispered, awestruck. "Oh, I was. I was flying past the stars on silver wings," Matilda said. "It was wonderful.”
As Matilda describes the way she feels as she uses her powers to move things with her mind, her mental distance from the people around her becomes a physical distance as well. She is soaring above everyone else, high above her troubles and unique in her abilities. Matilda's powers distinguish her from everyone else. At first this is a good feeling, but she soon realizes that she does not necessarily want this distinction and is happy when her powers disappear.
"You're darn right it's like a war. And the casualties are terrific. We are the crusaders, the gallant army fighting for our lives with hardly any weapons at all, and the Trunchbull is the Prince of Darkness, the Foul Serpent, the Fiery Dragon with all the weapons at her command. It's a tough life. We all try to support each other."
Here Hortensia describes life with Miss Trunchbull at Crunchem Hall. She uses metaphors of war to explain the way they fight Miss Trunchbull's strength and terror with small acts of rebellion. This heightens the stakes and legitimizes the children's struggle, showing that they have the power to take action against oppressive adults in their lives.
"If you had a heart attack this minute and had to call a doctor, that doctor would be a university graduate. If you got sued for selling someone a rotten second-hand car, you'd have to get a lawyer and he'd be a university graduate, too. Do not despise clever people, Mr. Wormwood."
Here, Miss Honey explains hotly to Mr. Wormwood why he should not discount the clever people in the world, after he says a university degree is useless. This is an important theme of the novel. Books, knowledge, and intelligence are an important vehicle for moving up in the world and bettering one's life, something that Matilda proves true over and over again. As such, this novel sends a message that education is important and educated people should be highly valued.
"The thing we all ask about Jenny
Is, 'Surely there cannot be many
Young girls in the place
With so lovely a face?'
The answer to that is, 'Not any!'"
Matilda makes up a limerick on the spot about Miss Honey and recites it on their first day of class. It not only shows how clever Matilda is, knowing what limericks are and being able to create one on her own, but it also shows how universally loved Miss Honey is. Immediately all the students agree with the limerick, remarking on her beauty and kindness. Even though it is only their first day, Miss Honey has made a lasting impression in the minds of her students.
"Would you like me to help you find a nice one with lots of pictures in it?"
Mrs. Phelps offers to help Matilda find a children's book at the library, mistakenly believing she is like other girls her age and cannot read. This is one example of how adults mean well, but often have trouble understanding Matilda and her brainpower. She often has to convince even the kindest adults in her life of her wit; Miss Honey, for example, also has trouble believing at first that she is really as smart as she seems.
"By then I had been her slave nearly all my life and I hadn't the courage or the guts to say no. I was still petrified of her. She could still hurt me badly."
This quote comes from Miss Honey's description of her childhood, when she was tortured and controlled by her terrible aunt for so many years. Even when she became an adult and could have fended for herself, her aunt still tried to control her, demanding nearly all of her teaching salary so that was rendered unable to support herself. Miss Honey was crippled by her aunt's influence and unable to stand up to her, showing how difficult it is to break free from a bad home life.
"There is little point in teaching anything backwards. The whole object of life, Headmistress, is to go forwards."
This is an important quote by Miss Honey, spoken to Miss Trunchbull just before Matilda puts her plan in action and makes the chalk write a message on its own. It is reflective of Matilda's life: she always looks forward, not allowing herself to be impeded by her neglectful parents or her less-than-happy past. Miss Honey is the same way, constantly pushing forwards even though her Aunt Trunchbull has always tried to drag her backwards. The lesson here is to keep moving forwards, even when it seems difficult.
"I would look after her with loving care, Mr. Wormwood, and I would pay for everything. She wouldn't cost you a penny."
This comes just at the end of the novel, when Matilda is begging her parents to let Miss Honey adopt her so she can stay there instead of moving to Spain with her family. When Miss Honey promises to look after Matilda with loving care, she devotes herself to giving Matilda the kind of love and affection the young girl has yet to receive from a guardian. Matilda's parents' willingness to leave her shows they never truly cared for her, and they are best removed from her life.
Matilda Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Matilda is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Mr. Wormwood is Matilda’s father, and a secondary antagonist of the story. He is a neglectful father who hates books and takes no interest in his daughter. Matilda's mother is no better. Mrs. Wormwood is obsessed with her appearance. She prizes...