Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
240 pages

Roald Dahl's classic children's novel about an extraordinary five-year old named Matilda Wormwood is humorous and witty while tackling serious issues such as child abuse and neglect. The book opens with the narrator's funny remarks of parents thinking their children are bright when they are not. This leads to the eponymous character Matilda and how her parents ignore her completely despite her genius level intellect.

Matilda's neglect by her crooked car salesman father and her vacuous mother enables her to walk to the library alone and borrow books on a regular basis. She reads all the children's book and numerous adult classics from authors such as Charles Dickens, John Steinback, and Rupyard Kipling before enrolling in school. Matilda is so angry with her parent's treatment of her that she plays cruel pranks on her father to get back at him.
When Matilda goes to Crumchem school she meets her lovely teacher Miss Honey and amazes her with her brilliance. Miss Honey attempt to tells the school's headmistress Miss Trunchbull that Matilda needs to be skipped to the top grade, Miss Trunchbull objects. Miss Trunchbull is a gigantic tyrant who has physically and verbally abused many of the students at her school, but no one reports her behavior out of fear. Over the course of the novel Miss Trunchbull throws a student over the school fence by her pigtails, holds a student in the air by their ears, forces a student to eat an entire large chocolate cake alone, and even threw a student out the window.
Though Miss Trunchball has a fearsome reputation and violent disposition, many students defy her by playing tricks on her, including Matilda's friend and classmate Lavender. Lavender puts a newt in Miss Trunchbull's water jug during her weekly visit to Miss Honey's class. When the newt is discovered Miss Trunchbull blames Matilda. Matilda becomes so enraged by the accusation she unleashes an eye power that causes her to tip over the cup with the newt in it. The newt lands on Miss Trunchbull and she screams. Miss Trunchbull yells that Matilda did it, but Miss Honey defends her by saying she never left her seat. After class is dismissed Matilda shows Miss Honey that she can move things with her eyes. Miss Honey is confounded and invites Matilda home to have tea.
When they arrive at Miss Honey's cottage Matilda is shocked to learn that Miss Honey lives in impoverished conditions and questions why. Miss Honey tells the story of her childhood and her escape from a wicked aunt who probably killed Miss Honey's father and stole her inheritance, along with usurping her teacher's salary as punishment for leaving the aunt. Matilda thinks Miss Honey is a hero for making her own life despite having nothing. Then Matilda finds out Miss Honey's aunt is Miss Trunchbull and decides she must take action using her power. She asks Miss Honey what her father's name is, her aunt's name is and what her father called her and goes home.
Over the next few days Matilda practices lifting and moving one of her father's cigar to accomplish her plot against Miss Trunchbull. By the following week during Miss Trunchbull's class visit Matilda seizes the opportunity to strike as Miss Trunchbull is dangling a boy upside down by the legs. A student named Nigel yells to everyone that the chalk is moving on it's own. The chalk writes a message for Agatha from Magnus about his Jenny getting her house and her wages back. Miss Trunchbull faints at the end of the message. After she is carried away to the sick room by five teachers. She disappears from town and never returns.
Several months later Matilda and Miss Honey are enjoying tea in Miss Honey's restored childhood home. When Matilda goes home she sees her parents frantically packing and telling her to hurry and pack as well. They tell her they are moving to Spain and not coming back. Matilda is mortified and run's back to Miss Honey's house. She brings Miss Honey to her parents and asks them if she can stay with Miss Honey. Matilda' parents give her permission to stay with Miss Honey and they leave for the airport without looking back. Matilda jumped into Miss Honey's arms and they held onto each other until the parents and the brother were out of sight.

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