Meet Matilda. She lives with her mean parents. We mean, they're mean on mean. They ignore her, which is extra tragic because she's shaping up to be a super-genius. In spite of them, she teaches herself to read, and heads to the local library, where Mrs. Phelps sets her up with a very advanced reading list.
Sure, Matilda's home life stinks. But she's a clever girl, so she decides to play tricks on her parents whenever they behave badly. She plays three pranks, gluing her dad's hat to his head, disguising a neighbor's parrot as a ghost, and dying her dad's hair blonde. Yes, these are as awesome as they sound.
Then, Matilda starts going to school. On day one, her teacher Miss Honey quickly realizes how smart Matilda is. Miss Honey even visits the headmistress, the Trunchbull, to ask for help with Matilda, but the Trunchbull ain't havin' it. The same thing happens when Miss Honey visits the Wormwoods. Meanwhile, Matilda and her friend Lavender meet Hortensia, who tells them all about how horrible the Trunchbull is. They see the Trunchbull throw a little girl through the playground by her hair. Another day, the Trunchbull force-feeds a kid named Bruce Bogtrotter an entire cake. This woman is bad news.
Lavender decides to prank the Trunchbull on a class visit. She captures a newt and puts it into the Trunchbull's water glass. The Trunchbull blames Matilda for the newt, which makes our girl so mad she pushes the Trunchbull's water glass over with her mind. Whoa. After class, she tells Miss Honey what she did, and then she gives her teacher a little magic show, which results in Miss Honey inviting little Matilda to tea.
Turns out Miss Honey is really poor. She tells Matilda about her past. After her mom died, her mean aunt straight up ruined her life. In fact, Miss Honey suspects that the aunt might have killed her father, and stolen all Miss Honey's money. Oh, and by the way, her aunt is the Trunchbull. We're totally serious.
Matilda decides to use her telekinetic powers to help Miss Honey, so she practices and practices and practices until finally the day comes when she can get some serious revenge.
The Trunchbull visits Miss Honey's class again. The Trunchbull is acting as abusive as ever when she's interrupted by a piece of chalk that's writing on its own. It writes that the Trunchbull has to stop cheating Miss Honey, give the things she stole back, and get rolling. Or else. Needless to say, the Trunchbull passes out cold. Wouldn't you?
Soon we find out the Trunchbull obeyed Matilda's instructions. Miss Honey moves home and starts living a decent life again. And Matilda, who visits her every day, gets moved up to the school's highest class. After moving up, Matilda loses her powers. One day, she finds out that her parents are planning to move to Spain, ASAP. Matilda doesn't want to go with them.
We'll come right out and tell you guys that this is a win-win. That's because Matilda moves in with Miss Honey, where the two live happily (and smartly) ever after.
The Reader of Books
- The book begins with the narrator talking generally about how most parents think their own kids are the best things since sliced bread.
- See, the problem is, not all children can be the best thing since sliced bread. In fact, a lot of them are jerks in real life, and our narrator doesn't like that at all.
- Then the narrator starts talking about parents who are totally different: the Wormwoods, who don't think there's anything special about their children, Michael and Matilda.
- In fact, they don't give Matilda the time of day.
- But if any kid ever deserved a parent's special attention, it's Matilda. She is, in a word, awesome.
- But the more Matilda achieves, the more annoying her parents think she is. She's a child prodigy, but they think she's a pain in the butt.
- (The Wormwoods are not the smartest of people.)
- Matilda teaches herself to read and wants to read more, even though her parents just want to watch TV.
- On weekdays her parents leave her alone for a while, even though she's super little, so she up and goes to the library on her own. She's just four, by the way.
- The librarian, Mrs. Phelps, helps her pick out books. First Matilda reads all the kids' books. Then she asks Mrs. Phelps to pick out something else for her.
- That's when Mrs. Phelps realizes Matilda's special.
- So while the librarian treats Matilda like she's normal, she gives her highly advanced books to read. To start? Great Expectations.
- Score! Matilda reads her first Dickens book—no sweat. She asks for more.
- So Mrs. Phelps builds her a reading list, and teaches her about the importance of reading.
- Along the way, Mrs. Phelps realizes that Matilda's parents are just the worst, but she doesn't really do anything to interfere in Matilda's family life.
- After Matilda has read several books way above her age level, Mrs. Phelps gets her a library card.
- That means less visits to the library for Matilda, but she's reading just as much.
- She takes the books home, makes herself cozy, warm drinks (even though she's basically too small to use her family's stove), and reads every afternoon in peace.
Mr Wormwood, the Great Car Dealer
- This chapter is all about Matilda's family life, which is Not Awesome.
- Specifically, it's about her dad's career, which is selling secondhand cars.
- When picturing Mr. Wormwood, you should imagine all the stereotypes of crooked salesmen rolled into one. If you haven't met someone like this, you've seen him on TV for sure, usually with flashy dollar signs floating around his head.
- Mr. Wormwood insists on telling his son, Michael, about the business, although Matilda's really the one who's interested.
- Here's the skinny: Mr. Wormwood cheats his customers thoroughly and regularly.
- He puts sawdust in the cars' oil and then uses a special method he made up to make the speedometers run backward.
- By the time he's done, the cars appear to run super smoothly and be practically unused. In other words, it's complete and utter cheating.
- It's not cheating to Mr. Wormwood, though. He brags and says he thought of all this stuff because he's such a genius.
- Michael's impressed, and Matilda's disappointed. But when she tries to tell their dad that what he's doing wrong, he yells at her and tells her to shut up.
- Then Matilda's mother tells her to be quiet, too, so they can all watch their show. Their family always has dinner in front of the TV. That's their "quality time."
- Matilda asks if she can leave to read a book, but her father says no. Dinnertime is important.
- Her father starts to get mad, and Matilda gets mad, too.
- She keeps it to herself, but she makes a choice that whenever her parents are behaving cruelly or meanly, she'll get revenge on them.
- First target? Her pops. After all, he was mean during dinner that night.
The Hat and the Superglue
- Matilda puts her plan into action instantly the next day.
- Her dad has this pork-pie hat he wears to work all the time, and he just loves it.
- Good taste, right? But Matilda doesn't share it: she sneaks around, gets the hat down from its high perch, and slips Superglue inside of it.
- Then she puts it back.
- When her dad comes to get the hat moments later, he puts it on and the glue fixes it to his head.
- Mission accomplished.
- Too bad for Mr. Wormwood, though; he doesn't realize this until he's already at his job, where he can't do anything about it. As soon as he gets home he tries to make Mrs. Wormwood take it off. Ouch!
- Matilda asks about what happened, and even though her father would like to blame his permanent hat on her, even he knows it's unreasonable. He has no proof.
- Mrs. Wormwood tells Mr. Wormwood that he screwed up and he should be more careful in the future.
- This only makes him even angrier.
- So Matilda decides to make him feel even worse by telling him a story about what happened to someone else who got Superglued.
- There weren't long-term consequences; he was just really embarrassed.
- Yep, Mr. Wormwood feels embarrassed, to say the least (his routine is all off, and he has to sleep in his hat).
- Plus, Mrs. Wormwood thinks he's a goof. His new look is not exactly attractive.
- The next day, Mr. Wormwood can't take it anymore, so Mrs. Wormwood cuts off as much as they can, and then they cut off some of his hair too.
- He looks, uh, bad.
- His loving daughter gets one last dig in by telling her dad it looks like lice, and resolves to keep on disciplining her father like this whenever he's mean to her.
- That's one prank under her belt. Let's see if she's got some more in mind.
- Matilda's hat trick (come on, we've gotta get our puns in when we can) works to keep her dad calm for seven days or so. He doesn't bother her as much as he normally does.
- But then something has to happen, we don't know what, because he comes home in a foul mood.
- Matilda's in the living room reading, and Mr. Wormwood comes in to watch TV. He picks a fight with her because she doesn't notice him.
- He grabs her book, which is The Red Pony by John Steinbeck, and tears it apart. Literally. He pulls out all the pages.
- Sure, this crime against books is heinous enough, but to make things worse, the book isn't Matilda's to ruin—it's a library book. She's worried about her responsibility to give it back to the library in good shape.
- Of course her father acts like it doesn't matter.
- He storms out, and Matilda's left alone. Instead of crying or getting really upset, she decides that this next time, she'll really have to get her dad back. She has to teach him another lesson.
- Never fear, our heroine is way too clever to lack ideas. She has the beginning of a plot going. It involves her friend Fred's parrot.
- Matilda can't take action until the next day. But then she goes to hit up Fred for a favor. Can his parrot talk?
- A little, says Fred.
- At this point, we might be lost, but Matilda's not. She asks if she can borrow the parrot, and when Fred says no, she offers a week's worth of allowance in exchange.
- Fred is up for that deal, so Matilda takes his parrot with her.
- When she gets home, nobody else is there. So she stuffs the parrot, cage and all, up the chimney in the family's dining room. This doesn't seem to hurt the parrot, and it's like he was never there.
- Fast forward to dinnertime. The Wormwoods are eating in the room with the TV in it.
- Then the parrot starts talking, saying "Hello!"
- Matilda is the only one who knows that it's the parrot and not a person—it sounds so human.
- Everyone else is worried, and Matilda pretends to be worried.
- Mrs. Wormwood wants Mr. Wormwood to jump into the dining room, defend them, and save the day, but he's way too much of a coward for that.
- So, each family member grabs a weapon of some kind, and Matilda leads her family across the hall to the dining room.
- When they get there, it's empty. Matilda acts extra brave.
- Then, almost like it's on cue, the parrot says his other line: "Rattle my bones!"
- Everyone is freaked out, and Matilda encourages everyone else to think it's a ghost.
- Her parents are terrified.
- Matilda has to wait till the coast is clear, which is not until her parents are at work again and it's a whole new day. Then she takes the parrot back to Fred and doesn't tell him what really happened.
- Oy vey. Matilda is having a hard time, because she wishes her parents weren't so awful.
- The only thing that keeps her going is her plot of playing revenge pranks. While the parrot-ghost bought her a week of relative peace, it can't last forever.
- Soon enough, trouble strikes again.
- One night, the family is waiting to have dinner. Mr. Wormwood had what he thinks is a great day at work, because he sold five cars.
- He makes up a story problem for Mike based on what he bought each car for and resold it at. (Side note: can you imagine if Mr. Wormwood were your math teacher? Yuck.)
- Mike tells their dad he's great and smart, and Mr. Wormwood boasts about one of his special marketing tools.
- Even so, the math is way too complicated for Mike, who writes all the numbers down and can't do the total in his head.
- When he starts adding it up, Matilda jumps in with the answer.
- Obviously, she did it immediately, in her head.
- Mr. Wormwood just tries to ignore her, but Matilda sticks up for herself and asks him to double-check it.
- Oh no. Her dad's horrified to discover that Matilda was right, and promptly accuses her of being "a cheat and a liar." He says that Matilda must have sneaked over to see the answer, which he'd written down, but she tells him that it wasn't physically possible.
- Then, Mrs. Wormwood interrupts everyone, coming in with their food.
- At dinner, Mr. Wormwood makes them watch TV, and won't let Matilda defend herself against the idea that she's a cheater.
The Platinum-Blond Man
- This chapter picks up right where the last one left off. Matilda is really upset at the way her dad acted. All she did was come up with the right math answer.
- She doesn't let her feelings show during dinner, but she plots and schemes in her clever little mind.
- The following day, Matilda puts her new plan into action. She goes to the family's bathroom and gets out her mother's blonde hair dye. It's very strong and full of peroxide.
- Her target in this prank is her father's black hair. He puts a special tonic in it every day to keep it dark and shiny.
- Mischievous Matilda replaces most of her father's tonic with her mother's hair dye.
- At breakfast, she and her brother eat, while her mother makes their dad's food.
- Mr. Wormwood arrives, full of self-importance, but Matilda doesn't want to look at her dad, in case she can't hold it together.
- Then, when Mrs. Wormwood enters, she sees what's happened to her hubby's hair and starts shrieking bloody murder.
- He gets mad, wondering what all the fuss is about. But Mrs. Wormwood is too busy flipping out, because his hair has turned kind of silvery. It looks, in a word, gross.
- In fact, Mrs. Wormwood and Mike are so upset that Mr. Wormwood freaks out too. He looks in a mirror, sees himself, and starts shrieking.
- What a scene. At that point, Matilda oh-so-innocently offers up the theory that he used Mrs. Wormwood's hair dye accidentally.
- Mrs. Wormwood tells Mr. Wormwood he has to wash his hair ASAP and even then it may be too late.
- At the very least, he'll have to dye his hair back, and at the very worst it might fall out. Ick.
- He races up to the bathroom to wash his hair, and tells Mrs. Wormwood to call the hair salon.
- After that, Mrs. Wormwood, in a shocking shift from her normal behavior, actually talks to Matilda, saying that men act ignorantly sometimes.
- It's the big day, everybody: Matilda's first day of school.
- She's attending Crunchem Hall Primary School.
- Of course smart Matilda could have gone earlier, and the fact that she didn't shows what careless parents she has.
- Matilda goes into the equivalent of kindergarten, the youngest age group. Her teacher is the super nice Miss Honey, whom everybody loves.
- The school is run by a really, really scary woman named Miss Trunchbull. She terrifies everyone. The narrator compares her to a rhinoceros. Yep, a rhino.
- In the first class meeting, Miss Honey gives her students some advice about trying to stay off the Trunchbull's radar.
- Math time, kiddos. Miss Honey asks them if they know their multiplication tables, starting with two.
- Matilda does, but no one else.
- In fact, she keeps going, up and up, until Miss Honey asks her to stop.
- At this point, Miss Honey is only more curious; she asks a bunch more math questions using multiples of two, and Matilda nails all of them.
- When Matilda tells Miss Honey she knows a bunch of other math stuff, too, Miss Honey is really impressed. She tries to act normally, though, so Matilda doesn't stand out too much.
- No matter how or why Matilda can do what she does, Miss Honey suspects Matilda is a super genius. She's special.
- Miss Honey decides to test whether Matilda's as good at language as she is at math. Of course she pretends she's asking the whole class questions, but she's really focused on Matilda.
- First, Miss Honey asks them to spell "cat," and then to read a whole sentence. Surprise, surprise, only Matilda can read it.
- Then Miss Honey asks Matilda to read a poem, and Matilda nails that too. To put icing on the cake, Matilda shows that she knows what kind of poem it is—it's a limerick—and then she recites one she just made up about Miss Honey.
- As you might expect, it's a very complimentary poem, and Miss Honey is blown away.
- The rest of the kids in the class all like the poem, and they like Miss Honey, too.
- It's recess, so Miss Honey goes straight to see the Trunchbull, because she wants to explain what a genius Matilda is.
- There's just one problem: the Trunchbull is a scary person. And she's not the most understanding individual in the world. To say the least.
- As soon as the conversation starts it's pretty clear that Miss Honey is scared of the Trunchbull, and the Trunchbull will barely let Miss Honey get a word in.
- It's as though the Trunchbull keeps misunderstanding Miss Honey on purpose.
- When Miss Honey brings up Matilda, the Trunchbull starts raving about Matilda's dad.
- She just bought a car from him and thinks she got a sweet deal. (Of course, we know she got totally ripped off.)
- The Trunchbull is a big fan of Mr. Wormwood now, so she completely took his word for it that Matilda is a terrible little girl. Ugh.
- The more Miss Honey protests, the more the Trunchbull cuts her off and talks about how little girls stink.
- When Miss Honey tries to explain Matilda's exiting potential, the Trunchbull puts both Matilda and Miss Honey down. She mocks all the achievements Miss Honey's listing.
- Even so, Miss Honey argues that Matilda should be moved up, so she can be challenged, but the Trunchbull refuses, saying that Miss Honey is just trying to be clever and get Matilda out of her own class.
- The meeting ends after the Trunchbull says she misses being able to beat up children who misbehaved. Yeah, she's a regular peach.
- Undiscouraged, Miss Honey goes back to her classroom, determined that she'll keep working to make sure Matilda gets a great education.
- Although there's no help from the administration, Miss Honey will totally figure something out.
- She collects a bunch of advanced textbooks and brings them to Matilda.
- The two chat before recess ends, and Miss Honey explains to Matilda that she can spend each class reading these books, while the other students learn more basic stuff.
- Miss Honey thinks Matilda is awesome—well behaved and polite. It seems like the Trunchbull was totally wrong.
- Because she's not someone who gives up easily, Miss Honey decides she'll go see the Wormwoods later and work with them to try and figure something out for Matilda. Maybe tutoring?
- And why is she doing all this? It's because a student like Matilda makes Miss Honey glad to be a teacher.
- That very evening Miss Honey heads to the Wormwoods' to speak to them about their daughter. But she soon discovers that the Wormwoods won't be all that much help. When Miss Honey merely mentions Matilda, Mr. Wormwood automatically decides that his daughter must've done something wrong.
- Then, like the polite guy that he is, Mr. Wormwood tells her to go away because they want to watch TV.
- In a moment worthy of a cheer, Miss Honey tells him to grow up, and calls him out for being a bad parent.
- When she meets Mrs. Wormwood, she discovers that Matilda's mom is just as bad. In fact, Mrs. Wormwood won't even turn off her TV show; she just hits mute.
- Although the Wormwoods are both super rude, Miss Honey presses on and tries to explain that Matilda is really smart and talented. Her reading level is so high.
- But the Wormwoods say it's not their fault, and that reading isn't important at all. They don't value Matilda's achievements, the jerks.
- Making matters worse, Mrs. Wormwood compares beauty to intelligence and insults Miss Honey, saying she (Mrs. Wormwood) is beautiful and Miss Honey isn't, because Miss Honey is a teacher. (The joke here, as the narrator and Miss Honey observe, is that Mrs. Wormwood is about as far from beautiful as a woman can get. In fact, she's downright hideous.)
- Overall, Miss Honey is amazed by the Wormwoods' stupidity.
- She tries to tell them about Matilda being good at math, to which the Wormwoods say, big whoop.
- Even though she knows it's not going to sink in, Miss Honey stresses the value of education before getting out of there.
Throwing the Hammer
- We knew we liked Matilda: she's good at acting normal and not getting all puffed up about how smart she is.
- So it's no wonder, then, that she gets along really well with the other kindergarten kids, who don't really care that she can read better or do better math than they can.
- One day, Matilda and her new friend Lavender are playing outside during recess when an older girl, Hortensia, comes up to them and tells them some horror stories about the Trunchbull.
- Using what sounds like a lot of hyperbole, Hortensia makes the Trunchbull seem incredibly evil. She tells them about The Chokey, which is a closet full of sharp objects that the Trunchbull shuts people in when they've been bad.
- Hortensia's been in there a couple times because she's played some major pranks on the Trunchbull, like covering a seat with something called Golden Syrup. (When the Trunchbull sat down on it, it "squelch[ed]." Yuck.) Then, she put itching powder in all of the Trunchbull's underwear.
- Each time, Hortensia was punished. She explains that even when there's no evidence, the Trunchbull can usually guess who did something bad. So, Hortensia got caught for all of her crimes.
- Apparently, though, the punishment hasn't spoiled the glory of the itching powder scene, which Hortensia describes in great detail. The prank really impresses both Lavender and Matilda.
- The point here, Hortensia tells them, is that their school is like a combat zone.
- Lavender and Matilda both volunteer for Hortensia's army. They, too, want to fight the Trunchbull.
- The latest horror story, Hortensia tells them, is that the Trunchbull threw someone out a window for eating in class.
- She says that the Trunchbull used to be an Olympic-level athlete, so defenestrating kiddos is probably no sweat.
- Then, they witness the Trunchbull in action.
- She marches up to a little girl named Amanda, who has her hair in two braids.
- (Hortensia explains that the Trunchbull can't stand this look.)
- In front of everyone, the Trunchbull tells Amanda she has to cut her hair off. Um, excuse us?
- When Amanda tries to protest, the Trunchbull picks Amanda up by the braids and swings her around a bunch of times before tossing her a great distance into a nearby field. Um, ow?
- Amanda doesn't seem hurt, and the Trunchbull goes on her merry way. Um, not cool.
- At that point, Hortensia tells Matilda and Lavender that nobody will stand up to the Trunchbull because she terrifies everybody.
Bruce Bogtrotter and the Cake
- After seeing the headmistress in action, Matilda and Lavender talk about how outrageous and evil the Trunchbull is.
- While Lavender thinks parents would stop the Trunchbull if students complained, Matilda explains that the Trunchbull can act so mean and get away with it because she is so over the top. No one would believe that she actually does the terrible things she does.
- The following day, the students have to go to a special assembly, which is being held so that Trunchbull can punish a kid named Bruce Bogtrotter in front of everyone.
- The Trunchbull calls Bruce up to the stage at the front of the room. Bruce is very worried, but does as she says.
- In front of the entire school, Trunchbull accuses Bruce of being awful and terrible, a complete degenerate (that is, someone who's completely corrupt and immoral).
- Then, the Trunchbull accuses Bruce of snatching some of her own secret chocolate cake stash.
- Bruce denies taking the cake, but the Trunchbull has a witness: the school cook. Uh oh. That means Bruce is in hot water.
- At first it seems like Bruce is no match for the headmistress, the poor guy. The Trunchbull fools him into confessing by asking him if the cake tasted good, and says he should pay his respects to the cook.
- When the cook comes out, Bruce tells her how the cake tasted.
- After that, the Trunchbull asks the cook if Bruce can have some more cake. This can only lead to bad things.
- The cook brings forward an enormous chocolate cake, over a foot and a half across, and the Trunchbull tells Bruce the cake is for him.
- But Bruce doesn't want to eat a bite. What if it's poisoned? What if it explodes? That's what all the other kids watching are thinking.
- Eventually, he has no choice but to take a bite of cake.
- He eats a small piece and nothing bad happens. It's just cake.
- The problem is, the Trunchbull says he has to keep eating it.
- Bruce tries to politely refuse, but she forces him to keep eating, saying he has to eat the whole cake.
- Matilda, Lavender, and the other kids watching think this is never going to happen. The cake is way too large.
- And it seems like it isn't going to work, as Bruce makes it through one more slice and stops.
- However, the Trunchbull says he has to keep eating without stopping or she'll put him in The Chokey.
- So Bruce tucks in. It's almost like he's a competitive eater or something. He excels at this.
- Most people wouldn't, though. Lavender thinks he'll be sick.
- He makes it halfway through and stalls to burp in an enormous fashion. Then he keeps going.
- The audience gets more and more excited. Before they were worried, waiting for the punishment to take its toll. But now, it's like they sense there's a real possibility for him to make it.
- That'll show the Trunchbull.
- One person shouts encouragement and the Trunchbull screams for quiet.
- Bruce is three-fourths there, and Lavender and Matilda are excited.
- All eyes are on Bruce, who finally eats the whole cake, and after that the auditorium explodes in delight.
- Furious, the Trunchbull smashes the empty cake plate over Bruce's head (he's unhurt), before storming off.
- It's Wednesday, and still the first week of school.
- Miss Honey tells her class that the Trunchbull will be sitting in on their class the next day. (She visits each class every week.)
- That means they have to be on their best behavior so that they don't upset the Trunchbull.
- Then Miss Honey tells them to review what they've been studying, so they can impress their visitor.
- Then, their teacher explains that she needs a volunteer to get the Trunchbull's water jug and glass prepared and ready before the Trunchbull arrives.
- What happens next is either super brave or super stupid. Lavender volunteers, because she wants to play a prank on the mean old lady. She sees it as a chance to win herself some glory.
- Lavender thinks really hard after school, and that night she goes to the pond in her family's garden to try and find a newt.
- Although it's not the easiest thing in the world to do, she catches one and puts it in her pencil case.
- Even though she can hardly contain herself, Lavender keeps the newt strictly secret when she brings it to school the next day. We like where this is going.
- Just before the Trunchbull's visit to their class, Lavender gets her water glass and jug and brings them back to the classroom.
- Then she dumps the newt and pond weeds into the jug. From the outside, you'd never know the jug had a newt in it.
- Mission accomplished, Lavender goes back to playing with her classmates.
- We can't wait to see what happens next.
The Weekly Test
- It's the moment we've been waiting for.
- The Trunchbull drops in on Miss Honey's class.
- Sure enough, she starts insulting the students right away, calling them all kinds of names.
- She examines all their hands for cleanliness, and one little boy, Nigel, has dirty ones.
- The Trunchbull quizzes him and is furious when he admits that he didn't wash his hands that day. While that's gross, it's not really cause for ridicule, we think.
- And it gets worse. Nigel has some spilled lunch on his shirt.
- Nigel's punishment? He has to stand in the corner on one leg.
- When he's there, she asks him to spell "write." Nigel asks whether she means "write" or "right," and then nails it.
- This makes the Trunchbull mad. (Of course.)
- Nigel tries to stand up for himself, by telling the Trunchbull that everyone in the class can spell "difficulty."
- But the Trunchbull doesn't believe him. She calls on a small girl named Prudence, who spells it right with no problem.
- Now the Trunchbull is really fired up. She's borderline dangerous.
- She makes Nigel explain how they learned the word, so Nigel says that Miss Honey taught them a little spelling song, which he then sings.
- But the Trunchbull thinks it's silly and not in a good way. She forbids Miss Honey from using the same teaching method again.
- Now it's math time. The Trunchbull's next victim is Rupert. She tells him to multiply two sevens.
- The poor kid gets it wrong.
- Furious, the Trunchbull picks him up by his lush blonde hair and waves him around.
- Rupert screams. We would too.
- Miss Honey begs for it to stop.
- The Trunchbull shakes Rupert about until he repeats the right answer, and then dumps him on the ground.
- The Trunchbull then tells the whole class that children are gross. You know, because that's the kind of inspirational language that best forms young minds.
- One boy, Eric, points out that the Trunchbull had to have been a kid herself.
- Poor Eric.
- This just makes the Trunchbull decide to humiliate him. She makes fun of him and then tells him to spell "what."
- Can you guess where this is going? Eric tries three times and fails.
- So the Trunchbull picks him up by his ears, and Eric screams.
- Miss Honey begs for it to stop all over again.
- The Trunchbull makes Eric say the right answer, which he does, and then she drops him too.
- This is the perfect opportunity for the Trunchbull to explain to Miss Honey that her teaching method is the best teaching method.
- She brings up Nicholas Nickleby as a good example of firm teaching and discipline. (If you've never read Nicholas Nickleby, suffice it to say that the Trunchbull is dead wrong here.)
- Matilda speaks up to say she's familiar with the book, and the Trunchbull calls her a liar. (Matilda gets this a lot.)
- While she would like to tell the Trunchbull off, Matilda doesn't.
- The Trunchbull figures out who Matilda is and that makes things even worse.
- She has just realized the car Mr. Wormwood sold her is a dud.
- Even though Mr. Wormwood isn't trustworthy, the Trunchbull believes the lies he's told her about Matilda.
- She thinks Matilda is real trouble.
The First Miracle
- Matilda has to sit down and act like she's not mad, even though she's fuming inside.
- The Trunchbull blathers on about how kids are like annoying little insects she'd like to exterminate.
- Although she thinks this is crazy inappropriate, Miss Honey can't really do anything about it.
- Here's where things start to get really interesting, as the Trunchbull takes this opportunity to pour herself some water.
- Uh oh. Here comes the newt.
- You might be surprised at what happens next. The Trunchbull screams. Everyone else is freaked out too. They're not sure what it is.
- After the scream, the Trunchbull is embarrassed and even angrier than before, if that's possible.
- She calls on Matilda and, telling her to stand, blames her for the newt.
- But Matilda is totally innocent! Not fair! Poor Lavender is too scared to confess.
- The Trunchbull and Matilda engage in a screaming match. The Trunchbull calls her a bunch of names, and Matilda stands up for herself. She didn't do it.
- At this point, the Trunchbull threatens to have Matilda expelled or put in jail. Really, Trunchbull? Really?
- She tells Matilda to sit and be quiet, or she'll whip her.
- No slouch, Matilda fumes. Someone like her isn't going to take kindly to that kind of treatment. The kid gets more and more mad. She wishes she could dump the newt on the Trunchbull.
- Still fuming, Matilda stares at the water cup and starts to feel bizarre. It's like her eyes are full of power.
- She concentrates furiously and thinks about making the water cup fall over. She can feel her power reaching over to the cup.
- Finally it falls and the newt lands right on the Trunchbull's chest.
- Boy, does she scream.
- When she's a little recovered, the Trunchbull swats the newt and it travels all the way to Lavender's desk.
- No one notices when Lavender rescues the newt for later.
- Then, the Trunchbull screams in fury, demanding to know who did it. She blames Matilda. Predictable.
- But it's obvious Matilda did not touch the glass, which gives her confidence.
- The other children and Miss Honey stand up for her, naturally. They didn't see Matilda come close to the jar.
- When Miss Honey suggests that it was an accident caused by the Trunchbull, the Trunchbull is even more furious.
- She yells at everyone and storms out. (What a shock.)
- Miss Honey tells her students that they can have recess until the end of the day.
The Second Miracle
- All the other students leave except Matilda.
- Matilda can't keep what just happened inside forever. She knows she needs to talk to someone trustworthy about it, and Miss Honey seems like the best option.
- As Matilda explains what happened, Miss Honey listens kindly and carefully.
- While the teacher doesn't believe that could've happened, she doesn't tell Matilda that straight up.
- Instead, she asks Matilda to make something else move with her mind. Of course, Miss Honey is sure nothing will happen.
- But something does happen. Matilda concentrates, channels that amazing power through her eyes, and, sure enough, she makes the glass fall over again.
- Unsurprisingly, Miss Honey is completely blown away.
- It's almost like Matilda has an out-of-body experience. Then she snaps back to reality.
- What do you do after seeing telekinesis in action?
- Have a nice cup of tea, of course.
- Miss Honey tries to pull herself together and invites Matilda to come over to her house for some refreshments.
- Her student joyfully accepts and they agree to keep what just happened a total secret.
- Not that anyone would believe them anyway.
Miss Honey's Cottage
- Miss Honey and Matilda take a leisurely walk through their village on their way back to Miss Honey's home. As they walk, Matilda gabs, sharing how excited she is about her new power and what she might be capable of.
- Of course, Miss Honey is the voice of reason. She tries to tell Matilda to slow down and relax. After all, her powers might be dangerous and they need to evaluate how to use them with care.
- Being the brainy individual that she is, Matilda understands what Miss Honey is saying, and is surprised to learn that Miss Honey thinks she is so gifted.
- Although Matilda thinks that each time she uses the powers she gets stronger and better, Miss Honey is worried that using the powers too much could make Matilda sick.
- They walk through a bunch of trees and Miss Honey teaches Matilda all of their names.
- The two keep walking and go down a small path that's pretty out of the way. It's like they're entering the wilderness.
- As they walk, Matilda wonders about Miss Honey's family life.
- Finally, they arrive at a very, very small cottage where Miss Honey lives. It's surrounded, almost covered up, by a tree and all these plants.
- No surprise, Matilda loves the place.
- She also thinks that Miss Honey's home is like something you'd read about.
- It's picturesque, but inside, it's tiny, bare, and run-down.
- Maybe it's too run-down, actually. Miss Honey doesn't have a refrigerator or a proper stove, just a Primus. (The book explains, "A Primus is a little camping-stove that you fill with paraffin and you light it at the top and then you pump it to get pressure for the flame" [16.47"]). She doesn't have running water. Matilda has to go fetch some from the well outside.
- Matilda does this bravely and even enjoys it a bit.
- At that point, Miss Honey explains she doesn't have proper baths; she heats up water and then gives herself a sponge bath.
- This seals the deal for Matilda. It's clear to her now that Miss Honey has very little money.
- Then, Matilda tries to be tactful as Miss Honey makes them tea and toast with margarine. There's milk, but no sugar.
- They go into the sitting-room, where there's no furniture, just boxes.
- Her teacher gives Matilda tea and a snack, admitting that all she really eats is what she gets at school. Ugh, this just gets sadder and sadder.
- But our Matilda is just curious. The more she sees, the more Matilda wants to know about Miss Honey's life.
- Miss Honey, on the other hand, is more focused on Matilda's mental abilities. She thinks that maybe they could start slowly testing Matilda.
- Matilda reveals she has pretty big ambitions. And why shouldn't she? She's like a half-pint superhero.
- Her power is exciting for both of them.
Miss Honey's Story
- Matilda and Miss Honey continue to drink tea, while Matilda peppers Miss Honey with all kinds of questions.
- She wants to know why her teacher lives so shabbily when she must make okay money working as a teacher.
- After hearing these questions, Miss Honey seems to get upset, and Matilda, as a sensitive person, apologizes.
- Somewhat surprisingly, though, Miss Honey opens up, saying that maybe she was secretly hoping Matilda would make her talk about her life. She says Matilda is like an adult-child combo. Even though she's really little, she's mature.
- There's something about Matilda that makes Miss Honey want to confide in her. In turn, Matilda can tell Miss Honey is really troubled.
- Then, Miss Honey tells Matilda her whole story, which has been a secret up until now.
- When she was little she had a great family. But then Miss Honey's mother died and her aunt arrived to live with her and father.
- The aunt was two-faced and super cruel to Miss Honey, but acted nice in front of the dad.
- Then, Miss Honey's father died mysteriously, and everything got much, much worse.
- Supposedly, it was suicide, but Matilda guesses (correctly) that Miss Honey's theory is that her aunt murdered her father. Yikes.
- For a long time after that, Miss Honey's aunt abused her.
- She's so traumatized, she doesn't even want to talk about it in detail.
- The only time she had some relief was when she went to school.
- There was nobody who she could ask for help.
- Even though Miss Honey wanted to go to college, her aunt said no. But, at 18, Miss Honey was allowed to do some teacher training.
- Matilda can't seem to understand why Miss Honey didn't fight back.
- But Miss Honey explains she was so beaten, mentally and physically, that she couldn't fight back, not even when her aunt made her sign over all of her money for a decade. Her aunt gives her a pound a week.
- As the story winds up, Miss Honey explains that two years before (when Matilda was three), she found the little cottage on one of her walks. The owner agreed to rent it to her for very little money because it is so run down.
- At that point, Miss Honey paid some rent immediately, then went home and packed. Then she told her aunt she was moving and because she'd already paid the rent, she had the strength to leave.
- Matilda marvels that Miss Honey can exist on so little money. Miss Honey puts a brave face on it, but the lady doesn't even have a bed, for crying out loud. She lives in terrible poverty.
- Immediately, Matilda decides that this has got to stop. She plans to help Miss Honey get out of her bad situation.
- She asks a few more questions and learns that Miss Honey should have inherited her family home and plenty of money when her father died, but that the aunt took it all.
- Mysteriously, her father's will has gone AWOL, and a suspicious-looking note says that her father gave it all to her aunt.
- Then Miss Honey says her aunt is the Trunchbull.
- Dun dun dun.
- Matilda is blown away by the news that the Trunchbull is Miss Honey's aunt. This explains everything. And oh goodness, is this woman evil.
- Doesn't it make you sad to hear Miss Honey say that the Trunchbull was even worse in private life than she is at school? How could it be worse than what we've already seen?
- After a change of subject, Miss Honey asks if Matilda wants to practice her magic power.
- But Matilda says no, that she should go home.
- On the way, Matilda asks Miss Honey three final questions:
- What is Miss Honey's first name?
- What did her aunt call her father?
- What did her father call her aunt?
- Staying open and honest, Miss Honey tells Matilda, but she has no clue what Matilda will do with such strange information.
- Cryptically, Matilda just thanks her, and the two part ways.
- At home, Matilda has the place to herself, which is perfect for what she wants.
- She borrows one of her dad's cigars and shuts herself in her room.
- What she's doing has something to do with helping Miss Honey, but we don't know the specifics yet.
- Matilda makes a little space for the cigar and sets to work concentrating on her special mental power to make it move.
- The movement's even easier this time and the cigar moves quickly. So Matilda challenges herself more. She wants to pick up the cigar with her mind.
- This is a lot harder than pushing it. She has to work really hard.
- After all, as anybody who's ever attempted telekinesis knows, it takes serious effort. Shmoop knows. We've tried.
- After a while, Matilda picks the cigar up just a little, just for a moment. She keeps doing it. Eventually she can keep it in the air for sixty seconds. She's that awesome.
- But this is hard work. It wipes her out and she falls asleep, just like that. Her mom has to wake her up for dinner.
- Matilda perseveres, and for a whole week, she works on moving the cigar with her mind.
- Pretty soon, she's excellent at moving the cigar in swirls and loops through the air.
- She decides she's ready.
The Third Miracle
- It just so happens that the day Matilda's plan is ready is also the day the Trunchbull sits in on Miss Honey's class again.
- Convenient, no?
- Before the Trunchbull arrives, Miss Honey cautions her class about behavior.
- She reminds them of the previous week and checks in with the students who had the hardest time, like Eric, Rupert, and Nigel.
- After lunch, the Trunchbull comes in, as scary as ever. She checks her water glass right off the bat and says that any bad behavior will be met with really strict punishment.
- Then she moves on to math problems, which spells instant doom for her first victim.
- Sure enough, she calls on a poor kid named Wilfred and says he should "recite the three-times table backwards!"
- Wilfred can't, and Miss Honey doesn't think he should have to.
- What Miss Honey thinks doesn't matter though, and the Trunchbull continues torturing Wilfred with more math problems.
- They're technically multiplying but they sound like adding. Wilfred is totally confused and can't do it.
- The Trunchbull, furious, yells at him, picks him up by his foot, and starts shaking him. She's just screaming the right answer when Nigel interrupts her.
- And this interruption is pretty important. Nigel yells that the chalk is moving independently.
- Even the Trunchbull looks at it.
- The chalk starts writing on the board.
- It writes, "Agatha."
- This freaks the Trunchbull out completely and totally.
- Then, the chalk keeps writing, saying "It's Magnus."
- A knowing Miss Honey sees that Matilda is lit up with special energy.
- The chalk keeps going, instructing Agatha to return the house and money to Jenny. Then it says Magnus is watching her and will "get [her]" if she doesn't obey.
- Oh boy. Everybody else is confused, but the Trunchbull struggles for air and falls over in a dead faint.
- Taking the initiative, Nigel dumps the whole pitcher of water on the Trunchbull's head, while other kids go to get help.
- In contrast, Matilda doesn't move, but exults in how amazing she feels and how glorious moving the chalk felt.
- Other adults come in, including the matron (who's like a nurse) and other teachers. The teachers joke about how the Trunchbull got what she deserved, and the matron shushes them.
- The Trunchbull is removed, and Miss Honey gives her class extra recess.
- As the students are leaving, Miss Honey and Matilda embrace. Aw.
A New Home
- Apparently, when the Trunchbull wakes up, she walks right out of the school and doesn't come back. Yes! Good riddance.
- Mr. Trilby, another teacher at the school, calls her and then goes to her house. He discovers it's abandoned, and the Trunchbull's personal things have disappeared.
- The following day, some lawyers send Miss Honey a letter. It explains that her father's will appeared. Miss Honey gets back the family house and all her father's money. She can move back in ASAP.
- A few weeks later, Miss Honey is settled back into her nice family home. Matilda comes over every day to hang out.
- In the meantime, Mr. Trilby got promoted to Head Teacher, and Matilda got to skip several grades. Now she's in the highest level at the school, being challenged and doing really well.
- Time passes.
- On one of their after-school tea dates, Matilda tells Miss Honey that she can't move things with her eyes any more. Her ability seems to have gone away.
- Miss Honey explains that it's not surprising. She thinks that the whole reason Matilda had powers in the first place was that she wasn't being challenged, and her brain had too much extra juice. It had to go somewhere.
- Now, though, her brain is being challenged, and there's not all that extra stuff left over all the time.
- Relieved, Matilda doesn't want to linger on the topic. She changes the subject, and talks about how different animals' hearts beat at all sorts of different rates.
- They have a wonderful chat and both of them seem really happy. They're two peas in a pod.
- At dinnertime, Matilda has to leave to go home.
- When she gets there, something weird is happening. Her parents are packing all their stuff up and there's a getaway car outside.
- Mr. Wormwood says they're leaving for Spain, like right now, and she better get ready.
- When Matilda protests, her father shuts her up.
- Matilda races back to Miss Honey's and explains.
- To Matilda's shock, Miss Honey doesn't seem shocked. What's going on?
- Miss Honey explains to Matilda that her father is a criminal who flips stolen cars.
- For real? That's Matilda's reaction, even though she knows about her father's special sales techniques.
- The next thing that happens is a no-brainer. Matilda immediately says she wants to stay and live with Miss Honey.
- Although this sounds like something they'd both like, Miss Honey is hesitant, until Matilda suggests that her parents might agree.
- Wasting no time, the two race back to Matilda's family's house. There, the Wormwoods are just about finished loading the car.
- After Matilda shouts out the new plan and asks her parents to let her stay, Miss Honey asks for their permission.
- The Wormwoods show their usual lack of care for Matilda. They don't mind giving up their daughter one bit.
- As Matilda's old family drives away, Matilda and Miss Honey hug: they're a new family at last.