Matilda by Roald Dahl: Book Summary

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  • 0:03 Matilda's Mean Parents
  • 0:49 Matilda at School
  • 1:51 Matilda and Miss Honey
  • 2:41 Matilda Finds Happiness
  • 3:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Evans

Mary has taught elementary school for six years and has a master's degree in education.

'Matilda' is about a very smart girl who is ignored by her parents. Matilda learns she has a special power and uses it to help teachers and students at her school. Read this summary to find out if Matilda finds happiness for herself!

Matilda's Mean Parents

Matilda, the title character of Roald Dahl's book Matilda, is a young girl whose parents are mean to her and often ignore her. Naturally very precocious, she teaches herself how to read by the age of four. Precocious children are defined as children with abilities and intellect beyond their years. That means Matilda is very smart and has a great ability to learn.

However, Matilda's parents only value things like money and television, and they treat her poorly because she is different. To punish them, she plays little tricks on them, like replacing her father's shampoo with hair dye and making her family believe there is a ghost in the house. Their relationship is rocky, to say the least. Saying a relationship is rocky is to call it a difficult, unharmonious relationship.

Let's see if Matilda can find happiness outside of her home.

By the time she begins school, Matilda is reading books for adults.
A stack of thick books

Matilda at School

When Matilda starts school, she meets her teacher, Miss Honey, who quickly realizes how smart Matilda is. Miss Honey meets with both the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, and Matilda's parents, but neither are receptive to Miss Honey's request that Matilda be moved to a higher class. Miss Trunchbull, having bought a used car from Matilda's father, already has it out for Matilda and is just waiting for a chance to punish her.

Matilda makes new friends named Lavender and Hortensia. Hortensia, who is older, tells Matilda and Lavender how terrible Miss Trunchbull is. They witness it with their own eyes when she forces a boy named Bruce Bogtrotter to eat a whole cake by himself and when Miss Trunchbull swings several other children around by their hair.

Because Miss Trunchbull is so awful, Matilda's friend, Lavender, decides to put a newt in her jug of water. Miss Trunchbull finds the newt when she pours it into a glass. When Miss Trunchbull blames Matilda for the prank, Matilda gets angry and discovers that she can use the power of her mind to spill the glass. She then shows Miss Honey her power, and Miss Honey invites Matilda to her house for tea.

Newts are slimy, amphibious creatures, and Lavender puts one in a jug of water meant for Miss Trunchbull!
photo of a newt

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