Both Matilda and the Trunchbull sit down, and the Trunchbull reaches for her water jug. Before she pours, she says she hates children and believes they should be exterminated like flies. She’d love to get them all stuck to sticky paper. Miss Honey says this joke isn’t funny, but the Trunchbull says it isn’t a joke. Ideally, schools wouldn’t have children at all; maybe she should start one. Then, the Trunchbull pours water from the jug into her glass—and a newt plops into the glass too. The Trunchbull screams and leaps away from the squirming newt. Lavender joins the other children in shouting and suggests the thing bites.
Likening children to flies reveals how Miss Trunchbull thinks of kids. To her, they’re powerless to actually do much damage—but extremely annoying. And this is somewhat true within the world of the novel. The kids don’t have the power to actually get rid of Miss Trunchbull or cause her harm, but they can sneakily make her life miserable. Lavender was successful with the newt prank—but now, this means that Miss Trunchbull will probably choose a child to punish for this transgression.
The Trunchbull, the “mighty female giant,” stands quivering. She’s furious that someone got such a reaction out of her, and she also hates the newt. Sitting back down, she tells Matilda to stand up. Matilda says she didn’t do it but finally stands. Lavender feels guilty, but she’s not going to admit she put the newt in the jug. The Trunchbull tells Matilda that she belongs in jail or a school for delinquent girls. Her face is, by now, a “boiled color” and she’s frothing. Matilda is also losing her cool—this injustice of being accused of doing something she didn’t do is too much.
This brief insight into Miss Trunchbull’s inner monologue shows how important appearances are to Miss Trunchbull. She wants to look powerful, not like the sort of person who’s afraid of a small amphibian. And by targeting Matilda even though Matilda didn’t do it, Miss Trunchbull shows the kids just how powerful she is. True justice doesn’t happen in this school—what matters is that Miss Trunchbull makes a show of force that frightens her charges.
Matilda screams that she didn’t do it, and the Trunchbull roars back that Matilda must have. The Trunchbull says she’s going to make sure that Matilda is locked up and will never see daylight again as Matilda continues to screech that she didn’t do it. The Trunchbull tells Matilda to be quiet and sit down and, slowly, Matilda does. But she continues to seethe. She feels ready to explode as she glares at the Trunchbull. Matilda desperately wants to dump the newt over the Trunchbull’s head.
Dahl’s word choice here (Matilda’s screaming versus Miss Trunchbull’s roaring) highlights the size and power difference between them. Matilda is a small child, so she makes higher-pitched noises than Miss Trunchbull’s terrifying roar. And Miss Trunchbull might be wrong about Matilda, but she still has the power to ruin Matilda’s life because she feels like it.
It seems like everyone is staring at the newt in the glass. Suddenly, a strange feeling starts to come over Matilda, mostly in her eyes. They feel electric and somehow strong. She doesn’t understand it; it’s almost like there’s lightning in her eyes. Her eyes feel hot as she stares at the glass. It feels like lots of tiny invisible arms are shooting out of her eyes toward the glass. Matilda whispers, “Tip it!” and the glass wobbles. She keeps pushing with the strange hands until, finally, the glass leans over—and dumps the water and the newt right onto Miss Trunchbull’s bust. Miss Trunchbull screams loudly and shoots up in her chair, swiping the newt off her chest. Lavender surreptitiously scoops the newt into her pencil box.
Matilda is so angry at the injustice of being accused of this crime when she didn’t do it that she literally develops a supernatural power—one that allows her to get back at Miss Trunchbull. This suggests that noticing injustices, and wanting to do something about them, can give someone a lot of power (though developing this supernatural power is, of course, far less likely in the real world). For now, though, Matilda’s odd power doesn’t do anything but help her continue her habit of playing tricks on adults; it’s still relatively benign.
The Trunchbull is shaking with fury. In a roar, she asks who pushed the glass over. When no one answers, she accuses Matilda. But Matilda feels serene and confident—she isn’t afraid of anyone after somehow using the power in her eyes to spill water on the Trunchbull. When the Trunchbull demands an answer, Matilda calmly notes that she hasn’t moved. The other students agree with Matilda and suggest that the Trunchbull knocked it over herself. Miss Honey notes that none of the children have moved. The adults stare at each other until the Trunchbull says she’s “fed up with you useless bunch of midgets” and slams out the door. Miss Honey excuses the class.
After taking action, Matilda gains another power: the power that comes from satisfaction after getting justice. Even though no one knows what exactly transpired, Matilda’s supernatural power still gives the other students and Miss Honey something to rally around—this is the first time that all of them feel comfortable standing up to Miss Trunchbull. And it works, so this suggests that when one person stands up to injustice, it can spur others to stand up for what’s right, too.