Matilda

by

Roald Dahl

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Themes and Colors
Adults, Children, and Power Theme Icon
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Matilda, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Adults, Children, and Power

Despite being a uniquely brilliant young girl, Matilda is a powerless child. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, treat her like a “scab” that they can’t wait to get rid of, and they refuse to see their daughter’s genius. And the formidable headmistress of Matilda’s primary school, Miss Trunchbull, hates all children as a rule—but she especially hates Matilda. Through Matilda’s struggles with her parents and Miss Trunchbull, Matilda taps into a power…

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Education and Opportunity

Five-year-old Matilda is a child genius; she can read and understand novels by authors like Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway by the age of four, and she can perform complex mental math not long after. Matilda’s intellect—particularly her ability to escape into other worlds through books—provides a much-needed escape from her parents’ neglect. And as Matilda starts school and connects with her kind teacher, Miss Honey, it seems as though Matilda’s love of learning…

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Family, Institutions, and Chosen Family

Matilda begins by noting that parents are, on the whole, far too convinced that their children are geniuses—and while this is annoying for everyone else who has to listen to the proud parents, it’s the way the world should be. The narrator then introduces readers to Matilda, whose parents don’t know or care that their five-year-old daughter is actually a genius and instead treat her “like a scab,” counting down the days until they…

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The Power of Fighting Injustice

As five-year-old Matilda learns about right and wrong from classic novels, she comes to detest her parents’ unfair treatment of her and take issue with her father’s unethical used car business. So when Mr. Wormwood destroys Matilda’s library book because he hates reading, Matilda stuffs a parrot up the chimney to trick her parents into thinking there’s a ghost in the house, thereby frightening them into good behavior for a while. Later, when Matilda discovers…

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Women, Financial Security, and Ethics

Matilda’s mother, Mrs. Wormwood, believes that women should focus on their looks so they can snag a husband who will provide for them. In her opinion, it’s useless for a girl to educate herself, because it’s appearance alone that can secure a woman’s future. Miss Trunchbull embodies another path through adult life: while she appears to be independent and professionally successful, she’s living off of money she stole by murdering her brother-in-law, Miss

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