Matilda

by

Roald Dahl

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Miss Trunchbull Character Analysis

Miss Trunchbull is the evil headmistress at Crunchem Hall Primary School. It’s a mystery how she got the job, as she hates children and education. A former Olympic athlete, Miss Trunchbull is extremely tall and muscular. And to keep her throwing arm in practice—she used to throw the hammer—she regularly throws children. She throws one boy because he was eating in class and throws another little girl because the girl had her hair in two braids, a hairstyle that Miss Trunchbull detests. Her entire purpose in life seems to be tormenting her students—and she gets away with it because her methods are so outrageous. No sensible adult, Matilda realizes, is going to believe that Miss Trunchbull is throwing children by their braids or locking them up in the Chokey (a tiny closet with broken glass and nails embedded in the walls, which children are made to stand in as punishment). And though she regularly laments that she can’t whip children anymore, she still comes up with horrible ways to torment them, as when she makes a boy named Bruce (who supposedly stole a piece of cake) eat an entire 18-inch cake by himself. But the students at Crunchem Hall fight back: one girl, Hortensia, has done things like put Golden Syrup on Miss Trunchbull’s chair and itching powder in her knickers. Miss Trunchbull enrages Matilda by accusing Matilda of lying about having read Nicholas Nickelby. This makes Matilda so angry that she discovers she has the power to move objects by looking at them. That afternoon, Matilda learns even more horrifying things about Miss Trunchbull: Miss Trunchbull is Miss Honey’s aunt and has abused Miss Honey since Miss Honey was a child. She probably murdered Miss Honey’s father so she could take control of the Honey family house and fortune, and she takes almost all of Miss Honey’s paycheck. Matilda poses as the ghost of Miss Honey’s father and writes on the chalkboard, warning Miss Trunchbull to give Miss Honey back the house and fortune. Matilda is successful: she not only makes Miss Trunchbull faint, but Miss Trunchbull also leaves the Honeys’ house and Crunchem Hall forever.

Miss Trunchbull Quotes in Matilda

The Matilda quotes below are all either spoken by Miss Trunchbull or refer to Miss Trunchbull. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Puffin Books edition of Matilda published in 2007.
Chapter 2 Quotes

“How long will it run like that before it starts rattling again?” Matilda asked him.

“Long enough for the buyer to get a good distance away,” the father said, grinning. “About a hundred miles.”

“But that’s dishonest, daddy,” Matilda said. “It’s cheating.”

“No one ever got rich being honest,” the father said. “Customers are there to be diddled.”

Related Characters: Matilda Wormwood (speaker), Mr. Wormwood (speaker), Michael “Mike” Wormwood, Miss Trunchbull
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

Now most head teachers are chosen because they possess a number of fine qualities. They understand children and they have the children’s best interests at heart. They are sympathetic. They are fair and they are deeply interested in education. Miss Trunchbull possessed none of these qualities and how she got her present job was a mystery.

Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

“I have discovered, Miss Honey, during my long career as a teacher that a bad girl is a far more dangerous creature than a bad boy. What’s more, they’re much harder to squash. Squashing a bad girl is like trying to squash a bluebottle. You bang down on it and the darn thing isn’t there. Nasty little things, little girls are.”

Page Number: 85-86
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Both Matilda and Lavender were enthralled. It was quite clear to them that they were at this moment standing in the presence of a master. Here was somebody who had brought the art of skullduggery to the highest point of perfection, somebody, moreover, who was willing to risk life and limb in pursuit of her calling.

Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

“He simply wouldn’t believe you.”

“Of course he would.”

“He wouldn’t,” Matilda said. “And the reason is obvious. Your story would sound too ridiculous to be believed. And that is the Trunchbull’s great secret.”

“What is?” Lavender asked.

Matilda said, “Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable. No parent is going to believe this pigtail story, not in a million years. Mine wouldn’t. They’d call me a liar.”

Related Characters: Matilda Wormwood (speaker), Lavender (speaker), Miss Trunchbull, Amanda Thripp
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

Already Lavender’s scheming mind was going over the possibilities that this water-jug job had opened up for her. She longed to do something truly heroic. She admired the older girl Hortensia to distraction for the daring deeds she had performed in the school. She also admired Matilda who had sworn her to secrecy about the parrot job she had brought off at home, and also the great hair-oil switch which had bleached her father’s hair. It was her turn now to become a heroine if only she could come up with a brilliant plot.

Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

“How perfectly ridiculous!” snorted the Trunchbull. “Why are all these women married? And anyway you’re not meant to teach poetry when you’re teaching spelling. Cut it out in future, Miss Honey.”

“But it does teach them some of the harder words wonderfully well,” Miss Honey murmured.

“Don’t argue with me, Miss Honey!” The Headmistress thundered. “Just do as you’re told!”

Related Characters: Miss Trunchbull (speaker), Miss Honey (speaker), Nigel, Mrs. Wormwood
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

Matilda, in the second row, sat very still and said nothing. A strange feeling of serenity and confidence was sweeping over her and all of a sudden she found that she was frightened by nobody in the world. With the power of her eyes alone she had compelled a glass of water to tip and spill its contents over the horrible Headmistress, and anybody who could do that could do anything.

Related Characters: Matilda Wormwood, Miss Trunchbull
Related Symbols: Matilda’s Power
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

What she needed was just one person, one wise and sympathetic grown-up who could help her to understand the meaning of this extraordinary happening.

Related Symbols: Matilda’s Power
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

“I think what I am trying to explain to you,” she said, “is that over the years I became so completely cowed and dominated by this monster of an aunt that when she gave me an order, no matter what it was, I obeyed it instantly. That can happen, you know. And by the time I was ten, I had become her slave. I did all the housework. I made her bed. I washed and ironed for her. I did all the cooking. I learned how to do everything.”

“But surely you could’ve complained to somebody?” Matilda asked.

“To whom?” Miss Honey said. “And anyway, I was far too terrified to complain.”

Related Characters: Miss Honey (speaker), Matilda Wormwood (speaker), Miss Trunchbull
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Matilda said. “Your salary was your chance of freedom.”

“I know, I know,” Miss Honey said. “But by then I had been her slave nearly all my life and I hadn’t the courage or the guts to say no. I was still petrified of her. She could still hurt me badly.”

Related Characters: Matilda Wormwood (speaker), Miss Honey (speaker), Miss Trunchbull
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

“I wish I was grown up,” Nigel said. “I’d knock her flat.”

Related Characters: Nigel (speaker), Miss Trunchbull
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Matilda LitChart as a printable PDF.
Matilda PDF

Miss Trunchbull Character Timeline in Matilda

The timeline below shows where the character Miss Trunchbull appears in Matilda. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7. Miss Honey
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
...in Crunchem Hall Primary School, which is headed by “a formidable middle-aged lady” named Miss Trunchbull. Matilda is in the lowest class, which a young woman named Miss Honey teaches. Miss... (full context)
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Miss Trunchbull, on the other hand, is “a gigantic holy terror.” She’s a tyrant and loves to... (full context)
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...warns the kids that while they’re at Crunchem Hall, they must take care around Miss Trunchbull. Miss Trunchbull demands discipline and deals “severely” with anyone who acts out. Then, Miss Honey... (full context)
Chapter 8. The Trunchbull
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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... (full context)
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When Miss Honey enters Miss Trunchbull’s study, Miss Trunchbull asks if the “little stinkers” have been flicking spitballs at Miss Honey.... (full context)
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Finally, Miss Honey tells Miss Trunchbull why she came: Matilda isn’t awful. Matilda is a genius. This word causes Miss Trunchbull’s... (full context)
Chapter 10. Throwing the Hammer
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...the first week of school, the new students learn all manner of tales about Miss Trunchbull. One morning, when Matilda and Lavender are on the playground for morning break, a 10-year-old... (full context)
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...times her first term. It’s terrible. The first time, she poured Golden Syrup on the Trunchbull’s seat for the morning prayer. The syrup squelched when the Trunchbull sat in it, just... (full context)
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...of Hortensia, who’s clearly a master and dedicated to her craft. Hortensia explains that the Trunchbull never proved it was her that time; the Trunchbull tends to guess when she can’t... (full context)
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...them about a boy named Julius Rottwinkle. He was eating during scripture class, so the Trunchbull threw him right out the window. The Trunchbull, Hortensia explains, threw the hammer in the... (full context)
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Suddenly, the loud playground goes silent. Miss Trunchbull is striding across the playground, shouting for Amanda Thripp. Hortensia whispers that Amanda has made... (full context)
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The Trunchbull then snatches Amanda by the braids and picks her up, swinging her around by her... (full context)
Chapter 11. Bruce Bogtrotter and the Cake
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Lavender asks Matilda how the Trunchbull can get away with this; her father would be very upset if the Trunchbull swung... (full context)
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...told to go to the Assembly Hall after the meal. When everyone is seated, the Trunchbull takes the stage with a riding crop and calls a boy named Bruce Bogtrotter to... (full context)
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Then, the Trunchbull leans down to Bruce and quietly asks if he liked the cake. Bruce can’t help... (full context)
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The Trunchbull asks the cook if she has more cake to share with Bruce. Right on cue,... (full context)
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...Bruce eats three slices of cake. They’re not sure he can do it—especially with the Trunchbull calling him greedy and threatening to put him in the Chokey. When he’s halfway through... (full context)
Chapter 12. Lavender
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Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
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...first week of class, Miss Honey asks Matilda to pay attention with everyone else: Miss Trunchbull will take over the class every week on Thursday afternoons. She does this with all... (full context)
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...to tell everyone, she knows she can’t—that way, nobody can rat her out if Miss Trunchbull tortures them. (full context)
Chapter 13. The Weekly Test
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Matilda’s class sits still and straight in preparation for Miss Trunchbull’s arrival. Miss Honey stands in the back. Presently, Miss Trunchbull marches in, tells the children... (full context)
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To punish Nigel, Miss Trunchbull tells him to stand in the corner on one foot, facing the wall. From there,... (full context)
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Miss Trunchbull snorts that Miss Honey wasted a whole class teaching the class to spell one word,... (full context)
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Next, the Trunchbull calls on Rupert to test his multiplication tables. She asks him for the answer to... (full context)
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The Trunchbull mutters that she hates “small people.” Children should be kept in boxes and seem to... (full context)
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The Trunchbull shouts that Eric is wrong, in every way possible. She gives him one more chance... (full context)
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When Miss Honey protests again, the Trunchbull tells her to go get another job or just read Nicholas Nickleby—the headmaster in that... (full context)
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The Trunchbull asks if Matilda thinks she’s a fool. Matilda thinks she is, but she can’t say... (full context)
Chapter 14. The First Miracle
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Both Matilda and the Trunchbull sit down, and the Trunchbull reaches for her water jug. Before she pours, she says... (full context)
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The Trunchbull, the “mighty female giant,” stands quivering. She’s furious that someone got such a reaction out... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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The Trunchbull is shaking with fury. In a roar, she asks who pushed the glass over. When... (full context)
Chapter 15. The Second Miracle
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...asks to speak with Miss Honey, Miss Honey perks up. First, Matilda asks if Miss Trunchbull is really going to expel her. Miss Honey assures Matilda she won’t. Then, Matilda asks... (full context)
Chapter 17. Miss Honey’s Story
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...respected in the community. After a moment, Miss Honey reveals that her aunt is Miss Trunchbull. (full context)
Chapter 18. The Names
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...about the pigtail incident on the playground the other day, Miss Honey says that’s nothing—Miss Trunchbull used to hold her head under the water during baths. But Miss Honey changes the... (full context)
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...Matilda says she has an idea, and she has three questions. First, what did Miss Trunchbull call Miss Honey’s father? Then, what did he call Miss Trunchbull? And finally, what did... (full context)
Chapter 20. The Third Miracle
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It’s Thursday, the day when Miss Trunchbull takes over Miss Honey’s class. In the morning, Miss Honey checks in with the students... (full context)
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After lunch, the class waits silently for Miss Trunchbull. Soon enough, the Trunchbull strides in and checks the jug. There’s no newt this time,... (full context)
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Wilfred cries out that that’s adding, not multiplication. The Trunchbull shrieks that it is multiplication and the answer is 21. She gives him another question:... (full context)
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Just as the Trunchbull screams at Wilfred that eight threes is 24, Nigel screeches that the chalk is moving... (full context)
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Wilfred screams that the Trunchbull is on the floor—and sure enough, she fainted. Miss Honey sends someone to fetch the... (full context)
Chapter 21. A New Home
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Before long, everyone knows about the Trunchbull’s fainting episode—and that she marched out of the school once she recovered. The following morning,... (full context)
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...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.  (full context)