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by Roald Dahl

Fear Theme

Shmoop may be terrified of giant spiders, but we're very thankful we don't have to be afraid of someone like the Trunchbull. We'll leave that fear to the students of Crunchem Hall, who spend their days scared witless of their very own headmistress. But even the scariest people can be made to feel fear, and Matilda is just the kid to deliver that poetic justice. In Matilda, fear is what makes a person like the terrifying Trunchbull weak, which helps Matilda bring about the awesome ending that only a Dahl book could have.

Questions About Fear

  1. What is the scariest thing the Trunchbull does, and why?
  2. Is Matilda scared of anything? If so, what?
  3. What does it take for Miss Honey to stop being afraid? And what was she really afraid of for so long?
  4. What's the Trunchbull really afraid of? Ghosts? Her past? The police?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The scariest element in this book is the Wormwood family's (excluding Matilda) total disinterest in the importance of reading. Or maybe that's just Shmoop's gut instinct. After all, we really like reading.

In Matilda, fear makes characters weak. So it's the bravest who come out on top, and the most scared (no matter how scary they are) who wind up losing.

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