Study Guide

Matilda Fear

By Roald Dahl

Advertisement - Guide continues below


Chapter 4
Mrs. Wormwood

"Then go and catch them, Harry!" hissed the mother. "Go out and collar them red-handed!"

The father didn't move. He seemed in no hurry to dash off and be a hero. His face had turned grey. (4.40-1)

In this scene, Mrs. Wormwood turns to Mr. Wormwood to protect the family. She expects that he, as the husband and provider, will step up to defend everybody. Ha. That's just laughable to us because we know better. If anything, Mr. Wormwood is more scared than everybody else is.

Chapter 6
Mr. Wormwood

"What the blazes are you all talking about?" the father yelled, putting both hands to his hair. "I most certainly have not dyed it! What d'you mean I've dyed it? What's happened to it? Or is this some sort of a stupid joke?" His face was turning pale green, the colour of sour apples. (6.27)

Seems like Mr. Wormwood is always turning funny colors, right? In the previous quotation he turned grey (4.41) and here he turns pale green. Both times, we see his fear written on his face through this change in color. We know he's scared because he looks so, well, ridiculous. This is not a guy who can keep his emotions in check.

Chapter 7

She was a gigantic holy terror, a fierce tyrannical monster who frightened the life out of the pupils and teachers alike. There was an aura of menace about her even at a distance, and when she came up close you could almost feel the dangerous heat radiating from her as from a red-hot rod of metal. (7.5)

Holy terror? Tyrannical monster? This is not a woman to be messed with. If she were our headmistress, Shmoop would be quaking in our boots. It's a good thing there are brave kids like Hortensia, Lavender, and Matilda around to fight back against the scary lady.

Chapter 10

"She's mad," Hortensia said.

"But don't the parents complain?" Matilda asked.

"Would yours?" Hortensia asked. "I know mine wouldn't. She treats the mothers and fathers just the same as the children and they're all scared to death of her. I'll be seeing you some time, you two." And with that she sauntered away. (10.65-67)

The Trunchbull keeps getting scarier. She's all the more frightening because powers seem almost unlimited. No adults can stand up to her. It's one thing for children to be afraid of a grown-up. When other adults are afraid of that grown-up, too, you know things are really bad. (Why didn't any of the parents call the police? Or social services?)

"The first time," Hortensia said, "I poured half a tin of Golden Syrup on to the seat of the chair the Trunchbull was going to sit on at prayers. It was wonderful. When she lowered herself into the chair, there was a loud squelching noise similar to that made by a hippopotamus when lowering its foot into the mud on the banks of the Limpopo River. […]" (10.17)

In this conversation, Hortensia describes a glorious prank she played on the Trunchbull, during school prayers of all times. This is one brave girl. From this quote, we also learn that she's quite well read. How do we know? Well she references Just So Stories (in which there is a Limpopo River). Most likely, the only other people who would know this book are Miss Honey, Mrs. Phelps, and Matilda. And Hortensia doesn't believe Matilda has read it.

The girl wearing the pigtails, Amanda Thripp, stood quite still, watching the advancing giant, and the expression on her face was one that you might find on the face of a person who is trapped in a small field with an enraged bull which is charging flat-out towards her. The girl was glued to the spot, terror-struck, pop-eyed, quivering, knowing for certain that the Day of Judgment had come for her at last. (10.55)

The Trunchbull gets compared to a lot of different animals in the book, and here she's compared to that namesake, the bull, as in Trunchbull. Now considering people spend most of their time running from bulls, it's no wonder Amanda's scared.

Chapter 13
Nigel, Rupert, Eric, and Wilfred

In two large strides the Trunchbull was behind Eric's desk, and there she stood, a pillar of doom towering over the helpless boy. Eric glanced fearfully back over his shoulder at the monster. "I was right, wasn't I?" he murmured nervously. (13.85)

The Trunchbull seems to like it when she can scare people for maximum effect. She hasn't even touched Eric yet, but he knows she could hurt him at any moment. So of course he's fearful and nervous, not knowing when this pillar of doom will strike.

Chapter 17
Miss Honey

"Up to now," Miss Honey went on, "I have found it impossible to talk to anyone about my problems. I couldn't face the embarrassment, and anyway I lack the courage. Any courage I had was knocked out of me when I was young. But now, all of a sudden I have a sort of desperate wish to tell everything to somebody. I know you are only a tiny little girl, but there is some kind of magic in you somewhere. I've seen it with my own eyes." (17.14)

This is the real tragedy of the Trunchbull's abuse. She's so frightening, so awful, that she knocks the courage out of her victims, particularly those she has been abusing for ages. Miss Honey isn't not brave. It's just that any courage she may have had has been squelched by the evil Trunchbull.


"You shouldn't have done that," Matilda said. "Your salary was your chance of freedom."

"I know, I know," Miss Honey said. "But by then I had been her slave nearly all my life and I hadn't the courage or the guts to say no. I was still petrified of her. She could still hurt me badly." (17.69)

Even when Miss Honey should have had freedom from the Trunchbull—as an adult making her own money and starting her own career—she couldn't stand up to her. Both her memories of how the Trunchbull had hurt her in the past and her worry that the Trunchbull "could still hurt [her] badly" keep her from striking out on her own. That's some powerful fear right there.

Chapter 20

For some reason everyone now looked at the Trunchbull. The woman's face had turned white as snow and her mouth was opening and shutting like a halibut out of water and giving out a series of strangled gasps. (20.45)

It's nice to see the Trunchbull get a taste of her own medicine, isn't it? The Trunchbull is scared of what she thinks is the ghost of Magnus, her brother-in-law (who, as a refresher, Miss Honey thinks was murdered by the Trunchbull). The ghost is calling the Trunchbull by her first name. It's pretty scary. How does it compare, though, to all the scary things the Trunchbull has done to other people and how she has made them feel? Is it enough to get her back?

Matilda Fear Study Group

Ask questions, get answers, and discuss with others.

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

This is a premium product

Please Wait...