Study Guide

Matilda Chapter 17

By Roald Dahl

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Chapter 17

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.

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