Study Guide

Matilda Good vs. Evil

By Roald Dahl

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Good vs. Evil

Chapter 2

She resented being told constantly that she was ignorant and stupid when she knew she wasn't. […] She decided that every time her father or her mother was beastly to her, she would get her own back in some way or another. A small victory or two would help her to tolerate their idiocies and would stop her from going crazy. (2.39)

Okay, Shmoopers. We totally don't condone playing pranks on your parents. But we can't really blame Matilda for her desire for a little revenge. Plus, her real desire here isn't to cause her parents pain, but to get rid of a bit of her own.

Chapter 5

Matilda longed for her parents to be good and loving and understanding and honourable and intelligent. The fact that they were none of these things was something she had to put up with. (5.1)

The narrator clearly wants us to despise Matilda's mom and pop. But does the fact that they are not good, loving, understanding, and honorable make them evil people, or just bad parents? Are they bad news altogether, or just when it comes to family life?

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)

The Trunchbull isn't one of those complex bad guys who have just enough good qualities to be interesting. (Let's just say she's no Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) The Trunchbull is pure evil. Because she's so totally bad, there's no need to feel bad about trying to take her down. If anyone in this book deserves to be punished, it's the Trunchbull.

Chapter 10

"You're darn right it's like a war," Hortensia cried. "And the casualties are terrific. We are the crusaders, the gallant army fighting for our lives with hardly any weapons at all and the Trunchbull is the Prince of Darkness, the Foul Serpent, the Fiery Dragon with all the weapons at her command. It's a tough life. We all try to support each other." (10.35)

Wow, Hortensia sure knows how to create a scary description. In this passage, she's basically comparing the Trunchbull to Satan—the Prince of Darkness, the Foul Serpent, the Fiery Dragon. Satan's the first and oldest of evils, and Hortensia is saying that the Trunchbull is as bad as that. Yikes.

Chapter 14

She didn't in the least mind being accused of having done something she had actually done. She could see the justice of that. It was, however, a totally new experience for her to be accused of a crime that she definitely had not committed. (14.16)

Matilda has a finely tuned moral code of her own, which she's developed entirely on her own. She'll stand up for her own sins (more than Lavender's willing to do), but she won't stand by while she's blamed for another person's bad deeds. For Matilda, it's less about good versus evil and more about what's fair.

Chapter 17

"I know what you're thinking," Matilda said. "You're thinking that the aunt killed him and made it look as though he'd done it himself."

"I am not thinking anything," Miss Honey said. "One must never think things like that without proof." (17.38-9)

Okay, we were going about our merry business thinking the Trunchbull was a mean old tyrant. But now she's a murderer, too? Could this woman get any worse?

Chapter 20
The Trunchbull

"What the blazes is this?" yelled the Trunchbull. It had shaken her to see her own first name being written like that by an invisible hand. She dropped Wilfred on to the floor. Then she yelled at nobody in particular, "Who's doing this? Who's writing it?" (20.38)

Ah, the beginning of the Trunchbull's grand punishment. It's glorious to watch, don't you think? What we love is how flabbergasted the evil woman is. She's so used to being in control that when the chalk starts writing, she hardly knows what to do with herself, and it's pretty fun to watch. Victory is sweet.

She was feeling curiously elated. She felt as though she had touched something that was not quite of this world, the highest point of the heavens, the farthest star. She had felt most wonderfully the power surging up behind her eyes, gushing like a warm fluid inside her skull, and her eyes had become scorching hot, hotter than ever before, and things had come bursting out of her eye-sockets and then the piece of chalk had lifted itself up and had begun to write. It seemed as though she had hardly done anything, it had all been so simple. (20.52)

Sweet, sweet justice. In punishing the wicked, Matilda feels strangely elated. All is right with the world, and it's all thanks to Matilda. Talk about a happy ending to the Trunchbull story.

Chapter 21

…Miss Honey received […] a letter […] informing her that the last will and testament of her late father, Dr. Honey, had suddenly and mysteriously turned up. This document revealed that ever since her father's death, Miss Honey had in fact been the rightful owner of a property on the edge of the village […] The will also showed that her father's lifetime savings, which fortunately were still safely in the bank, had also been left to her. (21.10)

In a Dahl book, evil can't triumph for long. Wrongs are righted, and the good guys get what's good. How can you not cheer when Miss Honey gets all her money back? Here's hoping she uses it to buy an awesome new house for her and her awesome new daughter.

Back at school, great changes were also taking place. As soon as it became clear that Miss Trunchbull had completely disappeared from the scene, the excellent Mr. Trilby was appointed Head Teacher in her place. And very soon after that, Matilda was moved up into the top form, where Miss Plimsoll quickly discovered that this amazing child was every bit as bright as Miss Honey had said. (21.12)

We don't know where the evil Trunchbull went, but wherever she is, we hope she's paying the price for her crimes. She deserves some serious time in The Chokey. By which we mean maximum security prison.

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