Matilda

by

Roald Dahl

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Mrs. Wormwood Character Analysis

Mrs. Wormwood is Matilda and Michael’s mother, and Mr. Wormwood’s wife. Though she thinks of herself as very beautiful, the narrator’s tone suggests otherwise—the narration describes her as having mousy brown hair dyed platinum blond, as being overweight and never fitting into her clothes well, and as wearing too much makeup. She’s also obsessed with American television shows, something the novel portrays as a moral and cultural failing. When Mrs. Wormwood isn’t watching television at home, she’s in the next town over playing bingo. So though she’s not as openly antagonistic to Matilda, she’s also absent—and she never pushes back when Mr. Wormwood does or says mean things to Matilda. Part of this is because Mrs. Wormwood, like her husband, doesn’t value education. Instead, she believes that women should focus on their appearance so they can snag a husband who will care for them—and she insists that, in dyeing her hair and marrying Mr. Wormwood, she’s followed her own advice and ended up successful. Because of this belief, she’s extremely rude to Miss Honey when Miss Honey visits to discuss Matilda’s education. Mrs. Wormwood doesn’t see any reason to insist that Matilda come with them to Spain, so she convinces Mr. Wormwood to let their daughter stay with Miss Honey.

Mrs. Wormwood Quotes in Matilda

The Matilda quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Wormwood or refer to Mrs. 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

Mrs Wormwood sat munching her meal with her eyes glued to the American soap-opera on the screen. She was a large woman whose hair was dyed platinum blonde except where you could see the mousy-brown bits growing out from the roots. She wore heavy makeup and she had one of those unfortunate bulging figures where the flesh appears to be strapped in all around the body to prevent it from falling out.

Related Characters: Mrs. Wormwood
Page Number: 27
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 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:
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 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 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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Mrs. Wormwood Character Timeline in Matilda

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. 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
...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 a little daughter, Matilda.... (full context)
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
...newspapers and magazines. At age four, Matilda decided she’d like to read books. She read Mrs. Wormwood ’s copy of Easy Cooking, and when she memorized all the recipes, she asked Mr.... (full context)
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
...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 to buy Matilda a book, Matilda... (full context)
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
...for Matilda’s safety walking to and from the library, as Matilda has already shared that Mrs. Wormwood doesn’t care what she does and hates books. (full context)
Chapter 2. Mr. Wormwood, the Great Car Dealer
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
...hates his “dirty money.” Turning red, Mr. Wormwood scolds his daughter and calls her ignorant. Mrs. Wormwood agrees with her husband and tells Matilda to be quiet so she can watch her... (full context)
Chapter 3. The Hat and the Superglue
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
When Mr. Wormwood gets home and admits he can’t get his hat off, Mrs. Wormwood tries to yank it off. Mr. Wormwood shrieks and Matilda, nestled in a chair with... (full context)
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
...it up his nose. People scolded him for a week to stop picking his nose. Mrs. Wormwood scoffs that picking one’s nose is a nasty habit he shouldn’t have been doing anyway,... (full context)
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
...looks ridiculous as he wears his hat all evening. He can’t shower, and later, as Mrs. Wormwood watches her husband in his striped pajamas and hat, she thinks he looks “stupid.” Mr.... (full context)
Chapter 4. The Ghost
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
...then, Mr. Wormwood resumes his bullying tactics. He comes home from work one evening and Mrs. Wormwood can immediately sense that he’s enraged. She disappears, so Mr. Wormwood strides into the living... (full context)
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
...as the Wormwoods are eating dinner in front of the TV, a voice calls, “Hullo.” Mrs. Wormwood is terrified and tells everyone to listen—it must be burglars. Mr. Wormwood suggests they all... (full context)
Chapter 5. Arithmetic
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
Mr. Wormwood and Mrs. Wormwood are civil to Matilda for about a week after the parrot incident. But then, as... (full context)
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
...Wormwood shouts that no one, “especially a girl,” can do math like that. Just then, Mrs. Wormwood carries in everyone’s dinners: fish and chips she picked up on the way home from... (full context)
Chapter 6. The Platinum-Blonde Man
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
...punish Mr. Wormwood. The next morning, Matilda gets up early and goes to the bathroom. Mrs. Wormwood gets her mousy brown hair dyed blonde at a salon every six months, but she... (full context)
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
Later, Matilda 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... (full context)
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
In a shriek, Mrs. Wormwood asks what Mr. Wormwood did to his hair. Michael joins in and shouts too; Matilda... (full context)
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
Mrs. Wormwood agrees that this is probably what happened. She notes that she’s only supposed to use... (full context)
Chapter 9. The Parents
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Mr. Wormwood leads Miss Honey to the living room, where Mrs. Wormwood continues to stare at the TV. When Mr. Wormwood turns down the volume, Mrs. Wormwood... (full context)
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
Miss Honey says that, regardless, Matilda is brilliant, and her parents should know this. Mrs. Wormwood gripes that Matilda is always reading, but Miss Honey asks if they’re really not curious... (full context)
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
...to be a math genius. Mr. Wormwood doesn’t see the point when calculators exist, and Mrs. Wormwood insists it doesn’t do a girl any good to be “brainy.” Gesturing to the TV... (full context)
Chapter 19. The Practice
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
...a huge effort. Matilda practices for another hour—and it’s so exhausting that she falls asleep. Mrs. Wormwood finds her like this later. From this day on, Matilda practices every day after school.... (full context)
Chapter 21. A New Home
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
Inside, though, is mayhem: Mr. Wormwood and Mrs. Wormwood are stuffing as much as they can into suitcases. Mr. Wormwood tells Matilda to pack;... (full context)
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
Now, Mr. Wormwood and Mrs. Wormwood are filling the Mercedes with their suitcases. Matilda stops and asks her parents if she... (full context)