Study Guide

Matilda Awe and Amazement

By Roald Dahl

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Awe and Amazement

Chapter 1

It is bad enough when parents treat ordinary children as though they were scabs and bunions, but it becomes somehow a lot worse when the child in question is extra-ordinary, and by that I mean sensitive and brilliant. Matilda was both of these things, but above all she was brilliant. (1.7)

Matilda's parents are the opposite of most ordinary parents, and that makes them all the more awe-inspiring. They're awful. In fact, they're just as extraordinary as Matilda herself is, just in a bad way. Matilda stands out because she's brilliant, and that means her parents stand out because when they look at their genius of a daughter they see a scab and a bunion.

Chapter 5
Mr. Wormwood

The father glanced down at the paper in his hand. He seemed to stiffen. He became very quiet. There was a silence. Then he said, "Say that again." (5.30)

Matilda's dad doesn't feel positive amazement here. Instead, he's horrified and stunned that she got the right answer. Rather than marveling at what a genius his daughter is, his immediate reaction is going to be that she must have cheated. He can't stand the thought that she could be smart, let alone smarter than him. What a nice guy, right?

Chapter 6

She looked up. She caught sight of her husband. She stopped dead. Then she let out a scream that seemed to lift her right up into the air and she dropped the plate with a crash and a splash on to the floor. (6.19)

You could say that Mrs. Wormwood's jaw-dropped reaction to Mr. Wormwood's new hairstyle is just as amazing as the hairstyle itself. Her scream is so intense that it makes her levitate. Then there's a tremendous crash as she spills Mr. Wormwood's breakfast all over the floor. Really, don't you think you're being a bit dramatic, Mrs. Wormwood?

Chapter 7
Mrs. Wormwood

Miss Honey gazed at Matilda with absolute amazement, but when next she spoke she kept her voice level. "That is really splendid," she said. "But of course multiplying by two is a lot easier than some of the bigger numbers. What about the other multiplication tables? Do you know any of those?" (7.27)

Miss Honey is shocked, amazed, dumbfounded, you name it. But she doesn't show it at all. She just acts normal and tries to suss out what's really going on. Of course this is exactly the right reaction. If she had done what Mrs. Wormwood did in the previous quote, well we're thinking that might have upset Matilda just a little bit. After all, she's a regular girl like the rest of us.

Chapter 10

Both Matilda and Lavender were enthralled. It was quite clear to them that they were at this moment standing in the presence of a master. Here was somebody who had brought the art of skullduggery to the highest point of perfection, somebody, moreover, who was willing to risk life and limb in pursuit of her calling. They gazed in wonder at this goddess, and suddenly even the boil on her nose was no longer a blemish but a badge of courage. (10.30)

To Matilda and Lavender, Hortensia is a hero. She's stood up to the scariest being they've ever seen, the Trunchbull, and survived. Not only that, Hortensia has given as good as she's gotten, doing things like spiking the Trunchbull's undies drawer with itching powder. Hortensia is brave. In their eyes, she's a goddess, which makes her a source of amazement for her younger schoolmates.

Chapter 11

As the very last mouthful [of cake] disappeared, a tremendous cheer rose up from the audience and children were leaping on to their chairs and yelling and clapping and shouting, "Well done, Brucie! Good for you, Brucie! You've won a gold medal, Brucie!" (11.90)

It's extra funny that the audience says he's a "gold medal" winner because of it, when the Trunchbull is the one who's actually been to the Olympics. But what's really great about Bruce's triumph over the cake (and the Trunchbull) is that the Trunchbull totally didn't see it coming. She's so used to coming out on top, the thought of having her plan backfire is totally shocking to her, and therefore all the more awesome to the kiddos.

Chapter 15
Miss Honey

"You seemed so far away," Miss Honey whispered, awestruck.

"Oh, I was. I was flying past the stars on silver wings," Matilda said. "It was wonderful."

Miss Honey was still gazing at the child in absolute wonderment, as though she were The Creation, The Beginning Of The World, The First Morning. (15.43-5)

Matilda has just done something amazing, something that Miss Honey has never seen before and something that we readers will probably never see at all. But Matilda isn't as awestruck as Miss Honey is by the experience, even though she's the one who really lived it. It's a wonderful thing for Matilda, but Miss Honey is the one who sees the real wonderment of it. In fact, this passage compares Miss Honey's reaction to Matilda to the reaction someone might have to watching the world be created.

Chapter 16

Matilda followed her, but just inside the doorway of the so-called sitting-room she stopped and stared around her in absolute amazement. The room was as small and square and bare as a prison cell. […] The only objects in the entire room were two upturned wooden boxes to serve as chairs and a third box between them for a table. That was all. (16.60)

This is maybe one of the saddest things in Matilda that causes amazement. Miss Honey's home life is so poor and meager that it's actually shocking. She has no furniture, just boxes, and her home can barely be called one. Matilda sees her house as more like a prison cell than a comfortable home, and these surroundings stun her much more than the everyday meanness of her parents or the outstanding cruelty of the Trunchbull.

Chapter 17

Matilda stared at her. What a marvellously brave thing Miss Honey had done. Suddenly she was a heroine in Matilda's eyes. (17.87)

Matilda idolizes Miss Honey for her bravery in the same way that she idolizes Hortensia for her daring. Miss Honey's bravery is as much of a marvel to Matilda as Matilda's own supernatural brains are marvellous to Miss Honey. So who's the real heroine here?

Chapter 20

This was the most sensational bit of news of all and the entire class jumped up out of their seats to have a really good look. And there she was, the huge figure of the Headmistress, stretched full-length on her back across the floor, out for the count. (20.48-9)

Seriously folks, a piece of chalk has just risen up out of its own free will (apparently) and started writing a ghostly message on the board. The chalk writer has claimed to be someone named Magnus and sent a message to the Trunchbull. You'd think this would be shocking and amazing enough for anybody, but for the majority of the people in the room, the "most sensational bit" is when the Trunchbull falls down in a faint.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...