Study Guide

Matilda The Supernatural

By Roald Dahl

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The Supernatural

Chapter 4

"I know it's a ghost!" Matilda said. "I've heard it here before! This room is haunted! I thought you knew that." (4.56)

While this seems like a supernatural moment to everybody else in the chapter (the Wormwood parents and Matilda's older brother), it totally has a logical explanation. There is no "ghost." It's a parrot. But, because the other people in the room don't know the logical explanation, they have to believe that it really is a ghost.

Chapter 14

"Tip it!" Matilda whispered. "Tip it over!"

She saw the glass wobble. It actually tilted backwards a fraction of an inch, then righted itself again. She kept pushing at it with all those millions of invisible little arms and hands that were reaching out from her eyes, feeling the power that was flashing straight from the two little black dots in the very centres of her eyeballs. (14.28)

Since most of us are unlikely to move things with our own minds in real life (unless there's something Shmoop doesn't know about you), a writer who's describing telekinesis has to go the extra mile to make sure the readers get a feel for exactly what the process is like. We'd say Roald Dahl delivers on that here. Can't you imagine the millions of invisible little arms and hands that are reaching out of Matilda's eyeballs?

A strange feeling of serenity and confidence was sweeping over her and all of a sudden she found that she was frightened by nobody in the world. With the power of her eyes alone she had compelled a glass of water to tip and spill its contents over the horrible Headmistress, and anybody who could do that could do anything. (14.35)

What's so awesome about Matilda's telekinesis is not just the fact that she can move things with her mind. It's that her ability makes her feel so spectacular—serene, confident, and no longer frightened. This ability makes Matilda not only sure of herself, but brave, too.

And now, quite slowly, there began to creep over Matilda a most extraordinary and peculiar feeling. The feeling was mostly in the eyes. A kind of electricity seemed to be gathering inside them. A sense of power was brewing in those eyes of hers, a feeling of great strength was settling itself deep inside her eyes. (14.26)

Before this moment, Matilda knew she loved to read and use her mind, but she was frustrated by being such a small, underappreciated kid. With this electricity, she has a feeling of great strength for maybe the first time in her life.

Chapter 15

"I made the glass tip over."

"I still don't quite understand what you mean," Miss Honey said gently.

"I did it with my eyes," Matilda said. "I was staring at it and wishing it to tip and then my eyes went all hot and funny and some sort of power came out of them and the glass just toppled over." (15.23-5)

What Matilda's just done is so bananas that it doesn't make very much sense to say it aloud. She doesn't have the fancy words to explain moving stuff with her mind neatly or clearly. So her explanation comes out all jumbled, in a sentence that has five "ands" in it. (Go on, count 'em. We'll wait.) Of course, unless you're Roald Dahl, we're betting the supernatural is pretty tough to explain.

Miss Honey's mouth dropped open and her eyes stretched so wide you could see the whites all round. She didn't say a word. She couldn't. The shock of seeing the miracle performed had struck her dumb. […] She saw the child white in the face, as white as paper, trembling all over, the eyes glazed, staring straight ahead and seeing nothing. The whole face was transfigured, the eyes round and bright, and she was sitting there speechless, quite beautiful in a blaze of silence. (15.41)

Okay, so Matilda's not out healing the sick or turning water into wine or bread into fish. But the words here remind us of descriptions of saints and religion. See, Miss Honey thinks that what Matilda's done is every bit as impressive as those other, more famous miracles. Now Matilda is beautiful and transfigured, just like other holy figures of the past.

Chapter 16
Miss Honey

"Because we are playing with mysterious forces, my child, that we know nothing about. I do not think they are evil. They may be good. They may even be divine. But whether they are or not, let us handle them carefully." (16.7)

Wise words, Miss Honey. While Matilda is too excited to stop to think about the hows and whys of her power, where it came from or why she got it, Miss Honey is taking a bit more of a cautious approach. When you're dealing with the supernatural, it's better to be safe than sorry. Or so they say.

Chapter 19

Now for the difficult one, she thought. But if I have the power to push, then surely I also have the power to lift? It is vital I learn how to lift it. I must learn how to lift it right up into the air and keep it there. It is not a very heavy thing, a cigar. (19.8)

Hey, Matilda says, if I can push an object, well surely I can lift it. It's only logical. Of course none of this is logical. It's telekinesis. It's a miracle.

Her plan for helping Miss Honey was beginning to form beautifully in her mind. She had it now in almost every detail, but in the end it all depended upon her being able to do one very special thing with her eye-power. She knew she wouldn't manage it right away, but she felt fairly confident that with a great deal of practise and effort, she would succeed in the end. (19.3)

Matilda wouldn't be Matilda if she didn't use her powers for good. (And to punish the wicked, of course.) Even though Miss Honey is worried about Matilda using her powers, we're betting she's grateful for them when they get her out from under the Trunchbull's evil control.

Chapter 21

"This morning," Matilda said, "just for fun I tried to push something over with my eyes and I couldn't do it. Nothing moved. I didn't even feel the hotness building up behind my eyeballs. The power had gone. I think I've lost it completely." (21.15)

When Matilda tries "just for fun," she's not able to use telekinesis any more. Not even a little bit. It's like she never had the power in the first place. It has vanished into thin air. After this, Miss Honey suggests that Matilda lost the power because it was based on her extra brain juice; she had extra mental energy to burn and it was shooting out like telekinesis. But once she moves up to a challenging class, the extra energy gets used up.

You could also say, though, that when Matilda uses her powers earlier in the book, she's either really mad about unfair treatment or trying to prevent unfairness. And once the Trunchbull has been stopped, a lot of that unfairness goes away. Now she has no justice to dole out, so her powers are unnecessary.

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