Matilda Study Guide

Matilda is a novel written by the famed children’s author Roald Dahl. It was first published in 1988 by Jonathan Cape in London. The book was illustrated by Dahl’s frequent collaborator Quentin Blake. It has been made into an audiobook, a feature film, a two-part radio adaptation, and two different musicals.

Matilda was Dahl’s last long-form story for children. The original draft of Matilda was very different than the final version. Originally, Matilda was actually evil, and used her powers for nefarious mischief until the last part of the story, when she began to use her powers to help a teacher with financial problems. Now, Matilda is a typical Dahl protagonist. She is small and has to deal with terrible adults. Matilda is a very sweet girl, who is marvelously intelligent. Her intelligence gives her powers of telekinesis, and she uses these powers to play tricks on her cruel parents and her fearsome school headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.

Matilda also features a young boy named Bruce Bogtrotter. Bruce eats an entire cake in one sitting, as a punishment. Bruce is an example of Dahl’s fondness for including obese characters in his stories. Other examples of obese characters include Augustus Gloop from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and Farmer Boggis from Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Matilda was made into a feature film in 1996, and starred Mara Wilson as the titular character. The movie is fairly truthful to its source material, and received good reviews. In 1990, a musical version premiered. It received mixed reviews and quickly closed. In 2010, a new musical written by Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly premiered on the West End, with no connection with the previous musical. This musical received much better reviews and quickly moved to Broadway, where it is still running. Matilda also won the 1988 Children’s Book Award, which is a great honor.