Matilda

by

Roald Dahl

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One of the novel’s antagonists, Mr. Wormwood is Matilda and Michael’s father, and Mrs. Wormwood’s husband. He’s a small, ratty man, with luscious black hair. He always wears suits with loud plaid prints to his job as a used car salesman. Though Mr. Wormwood is a successful businessman, he’s not successful because he’s honest—rather, he’s successful because he runs back old cars’ speedometers and fills gearboxes with oil and sawdust, and then tells people the cars came from old ladies who barely drove. Because of his dishonesty and perceived self-importance, Matilda detests her father. He detests her in return; he doesn’t like Matilda at all and doesn’t care that she’s extremely intelligent. Instead, he’s actually offended that she can amuse herself with books when he can’t (Mr. Wormwood doesn’t value education at all, and though he reads car magazines, he doesn’t believe reading books is a good use of time). Mr. Wormwood’s habit of antagonizing Matilda leads Matilda to play several tricks on him, such as gluing his favorite hat to his head with Superglue and replacing his hair oil with Mrs. Wormwood’s peroxide hair dye, thereby bleaching his hair. Eventually, it comes out that Mr. Wormwood is involved in a nationwide criminal operation that sells stolen cars. He decides to move the family to Spain immediately. When Matilda asks to stay with Miss Honey instead of go with the Wormwoods, Mr. Wormwood agrees—leaving her means he has one less thing to worry about in Spain.

Mr. Wormwood Quotes in Matilda

The Matilda quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Wormwood or refer to Mr. Wormwood. 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 1 Quotes

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

Some parents go further. They become so blinded by adoration that they manage to convince themselves their child has qualities of genius.

Well, there is nothing very wrong with all this. It’s the way of the world.

Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

They had a son called Michael and a daughter called Matilda, and the parents looked upon Matilda in particular as nothing more than a scab. A scab is something you have to put up with until the time comes when you can pick it off and flick it away. Mr and Mrs Wormwood looked forward enormously to the time when they could pick their little daughter off and flick her away, preferably into the next county or even further than that.

Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

“My mother goes to Aylesbury every afternoon to play bingo,” Matilda had said. “She doesn’t know I come here.”

“But that’s surely not right,” Mrs Phelps said. “I think you’d better ask her.”

“I’d rather not,” Matilda said. “She doesn’t encourage reading books. Nor does my father.”

“But what do they expect you to do every afternoon in an empty house?”

“Just mooch around and watch the telly.”

“I see.”

“She doesn’t really care what I do,” Matilda said a little sadly.

Mrs Phelps was concerned about the child’s safety on the walk through the fairly busy village High Street and crossing the road, but she decided not to interfere.

Related Characters: Matilda Wormwood (speaker), Mrs. Phelps (speaker), Mrs. Wormwood, Mr. Wormwood
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
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:

The anger inside her went on boiling and boiling, and as she lay in bed that night she made a decision. She decided that every time her father or her mother was beastly to her, she would get her own back in some way or another. A small victory or two would help her to tolerate their idiocities and would stop her from going crazy. You must remember that she was still hardly five years old and it is not easy for somebody as small as that to score points against an all-powerful grown-up. Even so, she was determined to have a go.

Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

Mr Wormwood glared at Matilda. She hadn’t moved. She had somehow trained herself by now to block her ears to the ghastly sound of the dreaded box. She kept right on reading, and for some reason this infuriated the father. Perhaps his anger was intensified because he saw her getting pleasure from something that was beyond his reach.

Related Characters: Mr. Wormwood, Matilda Wormwood
Page Number: 38-39
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Being very small and very young, the only power Matilda had over anyone in her family was brain-power. For sheer cleverness she could run rings around them all. But the fact remained that any five-year-old girl in any family was always obliged to do as she was told, however asinine the orders might be. Thus she was always forced to eat her evening meals out of TV-dinner-trays in front of the dreaded box. She always had to stay alone on weekday afternoons, and whenever she was told to shut up, she had to shut up.

Her safety-valve, the thing that prevented her from going round the bend, was the fun of devising and dishing out these splendid punishments, and the lovely thing was that they seemed to work, at any rate for short periods.

Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

“Matilda is a very lucky girl. She has wonderful parents who have already taught her to multiply lots of numbers. Was it your mother, Matilda, who taught you?”

“No, Miss Honey, it wasn’t.”

“You must have a great father then. He must be a brilliant teacher.”

“No, Miss Honey,” Matilda said quietly. “My father did not teach me.”

Related Characters: Miss Honey (speaker), Matilda Wormwood (speaker), Mr. Wormwood, Mrs. Wormwood
Page Number: 73
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:
9 Quotes

She was deciding that she would go herself and have a secret talk with Matilda’s mother and father as soon as possible. She simply refused to let the matter rest where it was. The whole thing was ridiculous. She couldn’t believe that the parents were totally unaware of their daughter’s remarkable talents. After all, Mr Wormwood was a successful motor-car dealer so she presumed that he was a fairly intelligent man himself. In any event, parents never underestimated the abilities of their own children. Quite the reverse.

Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

“A girl should think about making herself look attractive so she can get a good husband later on. Looks is more important than books, Miss Hunky…”

“The name is Honey,” Miss Honey said.

“Now look at me,” Mrs Wormwood said. “Then look at you. You chose books. I chose looks.”

Miss Honey looked at the plain plump person with the smug suet-pudding face who was sitting across the room. “What did you say?” she asked.

“I said you chose books and I chose looks,” Mrs Wormwood said. “And who’s finished up the better off? Me, of course. I’m sitting pretty in a nice house with a successful businessman and you’re left slaving away teaching a lot of nasty little children the ABC.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Wormwood (speaker), Miss Honey (speaker), Mr. Wormwood, Matilda Wormwood
Page Number: 97-98
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 21 Quotes

Matilda leapt into Miss Honey’s arms and hugged her, and Miss Honey hugged her back, and then the mother and father and brother were inside the car and the car was pulling away with the tyres screaming. The brother gave a wave through the rear window, but the other two didn’t even look back.

Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:
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Matilda PDF

Mr. Wormwood Character Timeline in Matilda

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Wormwood appears in Matilda. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1. The Reader of Books
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
...story. On occasion, parents take the opposite tack and show no interest in their children. Mr. Wormwood and his wife, Mrs. Wormwood, are like this. They have an older son, Michael, and... (full context)
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
...Mrs. Wormwood’s copy of Easy Cooking, and when she memorized all the recipes, she asked Mr. Wormwood to buy her a book. Mr. Wormwood refused, saying the television is good enough, and... (full context)
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Matilda spends every afternoon alone while Michael is at school, Mr. Wormwood is at work, and Mrs. Wormwood plays bingo. On the day that Mr. Wormwood refuses... (full context)
Chapter 2. Mr. Wormwood, the Great Car Dealer
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Because Mr. Wormwood is a successful used car salesman, the Wormwoods live in a nice, big home. One... (full context)
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Mr. Wormwood then says that everyone wants to know how many miles a used car has on... (full context)
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Matilda pipes up that that’s dishonest; Mr. Wormwood is cheating people and she hates his “dirty money.” Turning red, Mr. Wormwood scolds his... (full context)
Chapter 3. The Hat and the Superglue
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The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
The next morning, before Mr. Wormwood leaves for work, Matilda sneaks into the cloakroom and, using a walking stick, gets her... (full context)
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When Mr. Wormwood gets home and admits he can’t get his hat off, Mrs. Wormwood tries to yank... (full context)
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Mr. Wormwood looks ridiculous as he wears his hat all evening. He can’t shower, and later, as... (full context)
Chapter 4. The Ghost
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After the Superglue episode, things are calm for about a week. But then, Mr. Wormwood resumes his bullying tactics. He comes home from work one evening and Mrs. Wormwood can... (full context)
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After Mr. Wormwood storms away, Matilda sits silently. She knows she has to strike back, so she asks... (full context)
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...voice calls, “Hullo.” Mrs. Wormwood is terrified and tells everyone to listen—it must be burglars. Mr. Wormwood suggests they all go look together. Each family member picks up something to use as... (full context)
Chapter 5. Arithmetic
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Mr. Wormwood and Mrs. Wormwood are civil to Matilda for about a week after the parrot incident.... (full context)
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After Michael fetches a pencil and paper, Mr. Wormwood reads off how much he paid for each car that he sold, and how much... (full context)
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Quietly, Matilda says that Mr. Wormwood made 3,303.50 pounds. He scolds her to stop guessing, but then checks his final figure.... (full context)
Chapter 6. The Platinum-Blonde Man
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As Matilda eats her “awful” fish and chips, she decides how to punish Mr. Wormwood . The next morning, Matilda gets up early and goes to the bathroom. Mrs. Wormwood... (full context)
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
...and Michael are eating breakfast in the dining room while Mrs. Wormwood busily cooks up Mr. Wormwood ’s breakfast. Mr. Wormwood bustles into the room, purposefully being loud to alert everyone that... (full context)
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In a shriek, Mrs. Wormwood asks what Mr. Wormwood did to his hair. Michael joins in and shouts too; Matilda stays silent. Mr. Wormwood... (full context)
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...happened. She notes that she’s only supposed to use a tiny bit and dilute it— Mr. Wormwood might lose his hair after using so much. Peroxide, after all, is what they clean... (full context)
Chapter 8. The Trunchbull
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The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 9. The Parents
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...Matilda very politely thanks Miss Honey for the books and the help. Miss Honey knows Mr. Wormwood is wrong about his daughter—and she’s shocked that Matilda doesn’t seem aware of how brilliant... (full context)
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
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...she teaches the other students, Miss Honey decides that she must speak with Matilda’s parents. Mr. Wormwood has such a successful business that he must be intelligent, and it’s unusual for parents... (full context)
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
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...house and rings the doorbell. She can hear the TV inside. A small, “ratty” man— Mr. Wormwood —answers the door, and when Miss Honey introduces herself as Matilda’s teacher, says he’s not... (full context)
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Mr. Wormwood leads Miss Honey to the living room, where Mrs. Wormwood continues to stare at the... (full context)
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
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...hold her temper, Miss Honey says that Matilda also seems to be a math genius. Mr. Wormwood doesn’t see the point when calculators exist, and Mrs. Wormwood insists it doesn’t do a... (full context)
Chapter 13. The Weekly Test
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
...to introduce herself and when Matilda shares her last name, the Trunchbull starts ranting about Mr. Wormwood —the car she purchased was full of sawdust. Matilda insists her father is clever, but... (full context)
Chapter 19. The Practice
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As usual, the Wormwood house is empty. Matilda fishes out one of Mr. Wormwood ’s cigars and then locks herself in her room to practice. By now, she has... (full context)
Chapter 21. A New Home
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...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. (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Now, Mr. Wormwood and Mrs. Wormwood are filling the Mercedes with their suitcases. Matilda stops and asks her... (full context)