Matilda Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What does the story of Matilda say about the relationship between goodness and literacy?

    In Matilda, characters' views about literacy reflect their moral values. It is no coincidence that the hero of the story is a girl who loves reading. Through the story of Matilda, Dahl suggests that reading is essential for intellectual and moral development. Matilda's parents, who repeatedly deny Matilda books, are ignorant and criminals. Miss Honey, who seeks to foster Matilda's love for reading, is Matilda's salvation. Reading, knowledge, and cultivating the mind are essential components of this book, and Dahl makes it clear that these things should be highly valued.

  2. 2

    How are Matilda's and Miss Honey's stories similar?

    Matilda and Miss Honey's stories are closely related. Both of them had unhappy childhoods, but used education and reading as a means of escape. Matilda finds solace in the local library, and Miss Honey takes a job as a teacher to leave home. Education becomes a means for both characters to express themselves and to escape from their dissatisfaction with the world.

  3. 3

    How does Dahl use metaphors of war to describe the relationship between Miss Trunchbull and her students at Crunchem Hall?

    As Hortensia explains to Lavender and Matilda what life is like living in fear of the Trunchbull, she uses words that equate their experience to a war, describing the students as "crusaders" who are "fighting for their lives." In many ways the students are like soldiers, using their collective strength and wit to outsmart Miss Trunchbull and show her that she cannot beat them down. This is important because it allows the children to take agency against this oppressive adult in their life, even though individually they are smaller and weaker.

  4. 4

    How does Matilda's life change over the course of the book?

    Matilda begins the story as a smart young girl who is incredibly isolated, living a life full of books and intellectual excitement, but devoid of love. Her parents' neglect made a clear mark on her, so when people like Miss Honey and her friends at school entered her life, things changed drastically. Once Matilda had the love of friendship and mentorship, she became more confident and less frustrated by all the bad thing in the world, discovering that there is so much that is good about the world as well. This drastic life change culminates when Matilda is adopted by Miss Honey, breaking free of her parents forever.

  5. 5

    Why is the scene with Bruce Bogtrotter important?

    Until this point, the children at Crunchem Hall had had small-scale victories over Miss Trunchbull, tricking her in little ways that frustrated her and made them feel more confident. Bruce's finishing the entire chocolate cake is a large-scale victory, since the entire school witnesses it, cheers for him, and shows their unity and strength in numbers. Bruce has beaten Miss Trunchbull at her own game, and this moment paves the way for the tricks and pranks to follow, finishing off with Matilda's moving chalk.

  6. 6

    How does Matilda feel about her powers disappearing, and why is this significant?

    At first Matilda is awed by her powers, eager to use them to help the people she loves. Eventually, though, she realizes the burden that comes with any unique ability. When Miss Honey asks her how she feels about her powers disappearing, she claims that she does not want to be a miracle worker. This shows that deep down, Matilda has always desired a normal childhood. She has stood out in so many ways for so long, and now, at the end of the book, it is her chance to finally fit in and live the life of love and comfort that children deserve.

  7. 7

    How does Matilda display selflessness throughout the novel?

    At first, Matilda uses her wits to help herself. She comes up with tricks to play on her parents so that they treat her better, and thus to make her own life a little less miserable. When she learns about her telekinetic powers, though, her immediate instinct is not to use them for her own good, but for Miss Honey's. Matilda listens intently to Miss Honey's terrible story and feels deeply for her, showing her immense capacity for empathy, a trait rare in such a young child. She then concocts a plan to use her powers for Miss Honey's benefit, a clear example of selflessness.

  8. 8

    According to this book, what makes a good parent?

    Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood are two prime examples of what parents should not be. They favor one child over the other, do not properly look after their young daughter, and, above all, do not show her the love and affection a child deserves. This kind of care and attention from parents or guardians is key to a child's development, and while Matilda was certainly smart, she was missing the familial love that would round out her character. When Miss Honey enters Matilda's life, readers see what a parent should be: caring, attentive, warm, and conscientious, a support system and mentor in the best and worst of times.

  9. 9

    How are Miss Honey and Miss Trunchbull foils for each other?

    In literature, a "foil" is a character that contrasts another one so drastically that he or she accentuates the qualities of that other character. Miss Trunchbull is so loud, boisterous, and brutal that she highlights Miss Honey's patience, kindness, and warmth. The two are polar opposites in both demeanor and in physicality, so they work as foils to make aspects of the other's personality stand out.

  10. 10

    How might a reader identify with Matilda?

    While few readers can identify with Matilda's fantastical powers of telekinesis, we can relate to her in many other important ways. Readers, especially adolescents, can identify with the feeling that the adults in their lives are overbearing, even if they are not cruel like the Trunchbull. They can understand her feelings of loneliness, and the way she seeks out a means of escape. For Matilda, this escape is books, something with which Matilda's reader may easily identify. Finally, they can relate to her happiness when she finds Miss Honey, someone who truly loves her. The wonderful feeling of being loved is universal, and Matilda's and Miss Honey's relationship exemplifies that.