Matilda

by

Roald Dahl

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Matilda: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Before long, everyone knows about the Trunchbull’s fainting episode—and that she marched out of the school once she recovered. The following morning, the Trunchbull doesn’t show up. When the Deputy Head, Mr. Trilby, phones to check on her, nobody answers. He visits her after school—but nobody is in the brick Georgian house in the woods. Mr. Trilby realizes the Trunchbull up and left and goes to inform the School Governors.
Her crimes exposed, Miss Trunchbull sees no way forward but to leave without a trace. This shows that her success prior to Matilda’s antics was tenuous. All it took was a child exposing what Miss Trunchbull did, and putting Miss Trunchbull in a vulnerable position, for Miss Trunchbull to decide that it’s better to give everything up and move on.
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The following morning, Miss Honey receives a letter from local lawyers saying that they’ve found her father’s will. The house belongs to her, along with her father’s lifetime savings. She should contact them as fast as possible to take ownership of the property and the money. Within a few weeks, Miss Honey is living in her family home. Matilda visits her teacher every afternoon after school, and soon they’re great friends. At Crunchem Hall Academy, Mr. Trilby replaces Miss Trunchbull as Head Teacher. Soon after, Matilda moves into the top form. 
Miss Trunchbull presumably sent the will to the lawyers, thereby finally giving Miss Honey the rights to her home. Finally, Miss Honey has gotten the justice she deserves—and she’s financially and socially secure for the first time in her life. Her newfound security allows her to form this close relationship with Matilda. And for Matilda, things are also looking up. With Miss Trunchbull gone, school has become a place where Matilda’s teachers can appropriately challenge and educate her.
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A few weeks later, when Matilda is having tea with Miss Honey, she reveals that her power seems to be gone. Miss Honey says she’s not surprised. She wonders if Matilda’s power stemmed from being so frustrated—and that energy eventually bubbled over and manifested as Matilda’s ability to move objects. Now, though, Matilda is in the top form and is challenged in school, so her brain is busy. Matilda says that, in any case, she’s relieved—she didn’t want to be a miracle worker. Miss Honey thanks Matilda again for all she did for her.
Miss Honey essentially suggests that Matilda’s power stemmed from necessity. Matilda developed her power to right all the egregious wrongs she saw in her world. And now that Miss Honey is living in her family home and Matilda is being challenged in school, there’s no need for her brain to go to such lengths anymore. Now, Matilda can be a normal (if unusually intelligent) child.
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Matilda adores these evenings with Miss Honey. They speak like equals, and she feels safe and loved. Matilda shares with Miss Honey that a mouse’s heart beats 650 times every second. A hedgehog is slower, at 300 beats per minute. Miss Honey thinks to herself that she loves how interested Matilda is in everything. They talk for another hour and then Matilda sets out to walk home. It’s a short walk and when she arrives, there’s a new black Mercedes parked outside. This isn’t unusual; Mr. Wormwood often has odd cars parked outside.
Matilda may feel like she and Miss Honey are equals. But what’s really happening here is that Matilda is finally learning what it’s like to have a caregiver who takes an interest in what Matilda is interested in—and in Matilda herself. Miss Honey is, in this sense, taking on the role of a third parent to Matilda, and one who’s far more interested in Matilda than her biological parents are.
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Inside, though, is mayhem: Mr. Wormwood and Mrs. Wormwood are stuffing as much as they can into suitcases. Mr. Wormwood tells Matilda to pack; they’re leaving for Spain. Matilda doesn’t want to go, since she loves her school, but her father tells her to hurry up. He also says that they’re not coming back.
It's a sign of how settled and challenged Matilda is that she doesn’t want to leave because she loves her school. In a way, this is an indicator of how much Matilda loves and trusts Miss Honey and the other teachers at school—they’re there for her, while Matilda’s parents aren’t.
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Rather than pack, Matilda runs all the way to Miss Honey’s house. Miss Honey is pruning her roses and comes out to meet Matilda. Matilda cries that her parents are moving the family to Spain forever. Miss Honey says she’s not surprised—Mr. Wormwood is “in with a bunch of crooks” and is probably selling stolen cars. He’d often change the license plates and repaint stolen cars. He’s probably been planning this move for years, just in case.
Miss Honey makes the case here that the Wormwoods’ success and security has been tenuous for years. Because Mr. Wormwood is involved in business practices that are illegal, there’s always been the risk that this move—or worse, like being arrested—was going to happen. So Mrs. Wormwood may have looked secure and successful in her nice home, but in reality, she, like Miss Trunchbull, couldn’t rely on her power or success. 
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Matilda shouts that she doesn’t want to go with her parents. She wants to live here, with Miss Honey. Miss Honey says that Matilda has to go with her parents—though she acknowledges that if they agreed to let Matilda stay, that would be okay. Matilda notes that her parents don’t care about her anyway, so they might agree. She grabs Miss Honey’s hand and leads her back to her house at a run.
Miss Honey understands that Matilda’s parents do have rights to their daughter. Because Matilda is a child, Matilda can’t just decide on her own who she lives with. But Matilda does have the power to perhaps convince her parents to let her stay with someone who will no doubt love and care for her.
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Now, Mr. Wormwood and Mrs. Wormwood are filling the Mercedes with their suitcases. Matilda stops and asks her parents if she can stay with Miss Honey. Mr. Wormwood barely acknowledges this, and Miss Honey promises to care for Matilda—but only if her parents agree. Mrs. Wormwood suggests it’d mean one less thing to look after, so Mr. Wormwood agrees. Matilda leaps into Miss Honey’s arms and they watch the Wormwoods leave. Michael waves at Matilda out the window, but Mr. Wormwood and Mrs. Wormwood don’t look back.
Notice how everyone behaves during this parting. Matilda’s leap into Miss Honey’s arms is an intimate action that shows how deeply they care for and trust each other. The Wormwoods, on the other hand, show one last time how little they care about their daughter—it’s not even worth it to them to look back at her. Letting Matilda stay with Miss Honey ensures that Matilda will not only get the love and care she desires at last; Matilda will also be guaranteed the support she needs as she pursues her education.
Themes
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Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
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