by Roald Dahl
Matilda Theme of Education
As in many of Roald Dahl's books, the school in Matilda is a terrifying place—a place where adults like the Trunchbull can abuse students both physically and mentally, hurling them out windows, grabbing them by their ears, and screaming insults at them regularly. Even eating cake becomes a punishment at Crunchem Hall Primary. But, because of teachers like Miss Honey, and friends like Lavender, a school can also be a place of light and hope. The thing is, though, learning doesn't just happen at school. It can happen wherever the learner is, like a library, or even Matilda's bedroom. All you need is your own interest and a book, and you can go anywhere you want.
Questions About Education
- Does Crunchem Hall seem totally unbelievable? Or is it realistic in any way? Who is the most realistic teacher? Who is clearly too outrageous to be true?
- If Matilda's so smart, why does she need to go to school at all? What does she learn from the school that she doesn't seem to learn when she's at the library?
- Do you think Matilda knows how smart she is? Do you think her school education will help her grow smarter? And what about the, well, stupider characters? Do they know how not smart they are? How do you know?
- What do you think of the reading list Mrs. Phelps gives to Matilda? Is it appropriate for her? Why or why not? (You can find a bunch of these books listed over in the "Shout-Outs" section.)
Chew on This
Matilda gets telekinetic powers because she's not being challenged. So that means that having super smart people be working below their full potential is totally dangerous. Let that be a lesson!
It's very lucky that Matilda was so underappreciated and underchallenged, because that leads to her telekinesis, which is what helps to save Miss Honey from her sticky situation. If Matilda had been appreciated from the get-go, Miss Honey would be right where she is—in poverty.