Matilda Summary - A novel by Roald Dahl

Matilda Summary
[All images C. Quentin Blake / Roald Dahl Story Company 2020]

Matilda Summary

Roald Dahl's Matilda (novel) is a story of a bright, actually exceptionally bright, young girl who lives with her parents in a village called Buckinghamshire. 

  She lives in a good neighborhood and thanks to her parents she has all the comforts that she could ask for. But as they say, no one’s life is perfect, she has it all except for her parent’s time, affection, and attention. Unlike her brother, her parents treat her with disdain; to use Matilda’s own words “she means nothing to them.'' 

Her mom visits her friends every day for games, her father spends his whole day tending to his car business and her brother goes to school, so most of the time she is left to her own devices. 

From a very young age, she has been fending for herself. Not quite believable, right? But with a mental capacity like Matilda’s, everything is possible. With so much time on her hands, she is self-taught and already knows how to bake, read, and write. Now at the age of 5 and a half years, she is quite ahead of her peers, can do complex math calculations, have read the whole children section of the local public library, and is onto a reading list which is rather advanced for the children of her age group. 

At School, her teacher Jennifer Honey is amazed by her intelligence. She tries her level best to get her shifted into a higher class, but her request is refused by the headmistress.  However, she is determined to do everything to help Matilda. To keep the child occupied, as she is already too advanced for the Grade she is in, she decides to borrow books from the senior classes and give it to her every day if possible. She even decides to meet her parents, and in fact, visits them in the evening after school, but finds only disappointment for her parents are as ignorant as the headmistress. 

Miss Honey and Matilda’s bond grows as the story progresses. 

During her initial days at school, from a senior girl Hortensia, Matilda learns about Miss Trunchbull’s cruelty towards children. And, over a span of a few days, witnesses some of the most over the top punishments that students receive at the hands of the headmistress. Rather clever of her, she knows that even if the children try to tell their parents about such extreme punishments they will not believe them; they will just think the child is exaggerating the facts.

Every week, Miss Trunchbull visits different Grades and tests all that the students have learned in the previous week. The week when she is scheduled to visit Matilda’s class after lunch, Lavender, Matilda’s friends decides to pull a prank on the headmistress. She puts a newt in the jug set out on the table for Miss Trunchbull. During the session when Matilda says that she has read 

On finding the newt, Miss Trunchbull puts the blame on Matilda and gives her a good lecture which makes Matilda quite angry, especially because she hadn’t done it. This is when she finds out that she has powers. In her anger, she wills the water glass to tilt and when it does, it sends Miss Trunchbull into a frenzy. She blames Matilda, but everyone comes to her rescue saying that she hasn’t even moved, so the accusations are void. Miss Trunchbull leaves the class, still shocked by her encounter with ‘the crocodile’ in her water. 

Matilda tells Miss Honey about what she just did and repeats the performance for her, actually twice for Miss Honey wanted to be doubly sure. After that, Miss Honey invites Matilda over to her cottage so that they can have a proper discussion about Matilda's new powers.

Over tea and bread, on Matilda’s insistence, Miss Honey tells her all about how she was raised by her bad abusive aunt, who happens to be Miss Trunchbull. She confides in her about her father's sudden death, under suspicious conditions, and how all her father’s inheritance went to Miss Trunchbull and she was reduced to a domestic help at the hands of her aunt. She also confides how she left the house, the only home she ever knew, to escape the clutches of her aunt. Matilda finds all this to be quite unfair and decides to help Miss Honey. 

She practices her telekinetic skills at home and when she is ready she strikes again. When the weekly test comes she is all set to make Miss Agatha Trunchbull pay for her crimes. During the class, she writes on the class board using her powers posing as Miss Honey’s father and tells her to return the house to Miss Honey and leave the region forever. Miss Trunchbull leaves the school in dazed horror.

Miss Agatha Trunchbull vanishes and when Mr. Trilby, the school’s deputy head teacher goes to her house, she finds it empty. Mr. Trilby becomes the head teacher and proves out to be a fair, good-natured person. She even shifts Matilda to a higher class. 

Matilda finds that she has lost her telekinesis abilities, and is kinda relieved. Miss Honey gives a plausible explanation; she says that now Matilda has more challenging tasks to keep her occupied and hence is able to use up all her exceptional brainpower, so no more of it is left for her to perform telekinesis. 

Matilda keeps up her habit of visiting Miss Honey’s house after school. One evening she returns home to find her parents packing hastily and ready to leave the country for good. His father is sure that the police are going to arrest him for selling stolen cars, and want to reach the airport as soon as possible. 

Matilda tells her parents that she doesn’t want to leave and asks for permission to live with Miss Honey. And to her relief, her parents agree.

The school’s curriculum flourishes under Mr. Trilby's leadership, & Matilda and Miss Honey find their happily-ever-after together.  

[All images C. Quentin Blake / Roald Dahl Story Company 2020]

Matilda Literary Elements

Children's Fantasy/Comedy

Setting and Context
A Small English Village, Crunchem Hall Primary School

Narrator and Point of View
The Narrator of Matilda (novel) speaks in first person (though it is never mentioned who the narrator actually is).

Tone and Mood
Matilda novel's tone remains lighthearted and chirpy throughout the story with some elements of despair and sadness.

Protagonist and Antagonist
The protagonist of the story is Matilda Wormwood, and Miss Trunchbull (principal of the school Matilda attends) is the main antagonist (along with Matilda's family).

Books like Matilda (Novel) - Video

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