During the first break, Miss Honey heads for Miss Trunchbull’s study. Matilda obviously needs to be moved up since she’s so brilliant. Miss Honey knows she has to advocate for Matilda, even though she’s terrified of Miss Trunchbull. At this, the narrator explains that most head teachers are chosen because they’re good with kids and interested in education. Miss Trunchbull is the exact opposite, so who knows how she got her job. She’s tall and used to be a famous athlete. Her muscles bulge all over her body. She’s not beautiful and wears “odd” clothes: a brown cotton smock cinched with a belt, breeches, and turned-down stockings that show off her muscular calves. Her shoes are flat. She looks ready for a stag hunting expedition, not like she should be leading a school.
Miss Honey shows that she believes in Matilda’s right to receive an education—a real one, one that will challenge her. This is so important to Miss Honey that she’s willing to face her fears of the formidable Miss Trunchbull to try and make this happen for Matilda. The description of Miss Trunchbull paints the picture of someone who has no business working in a school, let alone as the most powerful person in the school. And the fact that Miss Honey is so frightened of Miss Trunchbull suggests that Miss Trunchbull doesn’t do well at her job—her goal is, perhaps, terrifying people so she has more power.
When Miss Honey enters Miss Trunchbull’s study, Miss Trunchbull asks if the “little stinkers” have been flicking spitballs at Miss Honey. Miss Honey mentions Matilda and at this, Miss Trunchbull interjects that she just bought an almost-new car from Mr. Wormwood for a great price. And he said that Matilda is terrible. Miss Trunchbull figures that Matilda probably stuck the stink bomb under her desk this morning and notes that bad girls are much more dangerous than bad boys. Little girls are nasty; Miss Trunchbull notes that fortunately, she never was a little girl. At the very least, she became a woman quickly. Miss Honey is convinced Miss Trunchbull is mad, but she insists that Matilda is not responsible for the stink bomb.
From the moment Miss Trunchbull opens her mouth, it becomes clear that she doesn’t think highly of children at all. They’re nuisances to stamp out, in her mind, and they’re all intent on tormenting adults. The fact that some kid other than Matilda put a stink bomb under Miss Trunchbull’s desk implies that there are other kids who, like Matilda, might be relatively powerless—but can still cause the adults around them a lot of grief by playing tricks on them. And again, it’s a mark of how dedicated Miss Honey is to Matilda’s education that she persists in defending Matilda.
Finally, Miss Honey tells Miss Trunchbull why she came: Matilda isn’t awful. Matilda is a genius. This word causes Miss Trunchbull’s face to turn purple, and Miss Trunchbull insists that according to Mr. Wormwood, Matilda is in a gang. Miss Honey explains that Matilda can do amazing mental math and can already read. She believes Matilda needs to be with the eleven-year-olds. Miss Trunchbull accuses Miss Honey of wanting to get rid of Matilda so Matilda can cause havoc in the upper forms. She refuses to let Matilda move, not least because she has a rule here that children should stay with their age group, no matter what. Then, Miss Trunchbull wishes she could still whip Matilda for the stink bomb. Miss Honey leaves the study and vows to help Matilda herself.
Miss Trunchbull seems a lot like Mr. Wormwood in that she clearly doesn’t value education. This is, of course, ironic given that she runs a school. But it suggests that Miss Trunchbull has this job for the power it gives her, not because she has any interest in doing the job well. She also shows that she thinks everyone is just as selfish as she seems to be; it’s inconceivable to her that Miss Honey is legitimately trying to help Matilda rather than herself. The fact that Miss Trunchbull also wishes she could whip Matilda shows how much she relies on violence to get her way—or, at least, wishes she could.