Matilda

by

Roald Dahl

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Matilda’s Power Symbol Analysis

Matilda’s Power Symbol Icon

Matilda’s miraculous power is, essentially, a manifestation of her firm sense of morality. With her power, Matilda can channel her anger at the injustices she sees in the world and with it, cause objects to move. At first, Matilda uses her power—accidentally—to tip a glass of water containing a newt onto Miss Trunchbull’s chest. Miss Trunchbull is unfairly tormenting the students prior to this incident, and this enrages the justice-loving Matilda. So Miss Trunchbull’s unfairness provides Matilda with the emotional ammunition she needs to tip over the glass, thereby embarrassing Miss Trunchbull—and getting back at the tyrannical headmistress for abusing students.

Later, when Matilda hears about how Miss Trunchbull has abused Miss Honey for years and is even now stealing Miss Honey’s paycheck and living in the house that rightfully belongs to Miss Honey, Matilda can’t let this injustice go. Instead, she channels her anger and her desire for justice until she’s able to control her power enough to write with chalk on the blackboard. Matilda makes it seem like the ghost of Miss Honey’s father—whom Miss Trunchbull may have murdered—is the person writing, telling Miss Trunchbull to leave Miss Honey alone and give the young woman back her house. When Matilda frightens Miss Trunchbull so badly that Miss Trunchbull leaves the school and the house, never to be seen again, it gets Miss Honey the justice she deserves.

Having saved Miss Honey from financial ruin and students and parents from Miss Trunchbull’s tyranny, Matilda soon discovers that her power disappears. At this point, Miss Honey suggests that Matilda no longer has anything to fight against. She’s in a class that challenges her, and she was able to get rid of Miss Trunchbull. Put simply, after having righted the wrongs in her world, Matilda no longer needs her power to fight back, as there’s no longer anything to fight back against.

Matilda’s Power Quotes in Matilda

The Matilda quotes below all refer to the symbol of Matilda’s Power. 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 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 16 Quotes

“I myself,” Miss Honey said, “am probably far more bowled over by what you did than you are, and I am trying to find some reasonable explanation.”

“Such as what?” Matilda asked.

“Such as whether or not it’s got something to do with the fact that you are quite exceptionally precocious.”

“What exactly does that word mean?” Matilda said.

“A precocious child,” Miss Honey said, “is one that shows amazing intelligence early on. You are an unbelievably precocious child.”

Related Characters: Miss Honey (speaker), Matilda Wormwood (speaker)
Related Symbols: Matilda’s Power
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

“While you were in my class you had nothing to do, nothing to make you struggle. Your fairly enormous brain was going crazy with frustration. It was bubbling and boiling away like mad inside your head. There was tremendous energy bottled up in there with nowhere to go, and somehow or other you were able to shoot that energy out through your eyes and make objects move. But now things are different. You are in the top form competing against children more than twice your age and all that mental energy is being used up in class. Your brain is for the first time having to struggle and strive and keep really busy, which is great.”

Related Characters: Miss Honey (speaker), Matilda Wormwood
Related Symbols: Matilda’s Power
Page Number: 129-130
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Matilda LitChart as a printable PDF.
Matilda PDF

Matilda’s Power Symbol Timeline in Matilda

The timeline below shows where the symbol Matilda’s Power appears in Matilda. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 14. The First Miracle
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
...Matilda. But Matilda feels serene and confident—she isn’t afraid of anyone after somehow using the power in her eyes to spill water on the Trunchbull. When the Trunchbull demands an answer,... (full context)
Chapter 15. The Second Miracle
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
...is confused, as Matilda says that she made the glass tip over with some odd power in her eyes. Miss Honey figures Matilda is telling a tale and kindly asks Matilda... (full context)
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
...she yells at it to tip over. She can feel the electricity gathering and the power reach out of her eyes like little hands. The glass wobbles and then tips over.... (full context)
Chapter 16. Miss Honey’s Cottage
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
...to suddenly come alive. She runs beside Miss Honey, hopping and talking about her strange power and all the things she could push over with it. Miss Honey cautions Matilda to... (full context)
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
...Miss Honey is afraid she’s going to hurt herself, and she insists that using her power feels “lovely.” Also, it was easier the second time, so she probably just needs to... (full context)
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
Women, Financial Security, and Ethics Theme Icon
...wants to know what’s going on. Miss Honey pours tea and tells Matilda that her power is amazing. It’d be interesting to figure out how much Matilda can do, and Matilda... (full context)
Chapter 21. A New Home
Education and Opportunity Theme Icon
Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family Theme Icon
The Power of Fighting Injustice Theme Icon
...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... (full context)