Once upon a time, there lived a reader. Her name was Matilda. No, Matilda wasn’t just a common reader. She began reading at the age of three, and at the age of four she devoured all newspapers and magazines she could find laying around her house, along with one cooking book that happened to be the only book in the household. Poor Matilda, being a child so bright in a dreadfully unsupportive family, she had to find her own way to the library, the place where she could find all the books she wanted to read. Voila, after devouring every children’s books in the library’s collection, this magical child managed to read these books before she even turned five years old:
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Tess of D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Gone to Earth by Mary Webb
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Good Companions by J.B. Priestley
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Hard to believe, I know. But the story does not end there. We can say that it was Mr. and Mrs Wormwood’s fault that Matilda entered school quite late. They were Matilda’s parents, and they didn’t give a damn about their daughter’s education. So at age five and a half Matilda went to school for the first time. Crunchem Hall, the name of the school, was the place where you can find the biggest, most ridiculous contrast ever between two people. The headmistress of Crunchem Hall was called Miss Trunchbull, and there is only one word that could define her best: a nightmare. She was a gigantic monster, a terror, a menace. She enjoyed punishing children in such a horrifying and unexplainable way that the parents would not believe if their children told them about the headmistress. Meanwhile, the exact opposite of Miss Trunchbull took the form of a Miss Honey, Matilda’s teacher. She was a slim-figured young woman who was mild and quiet. Later on, Miss Honey would recognize the extraordinary talent that Matilda possessed. As their friendship grows, Matilda would learn that Miss Trunchbull was the one who is responsible for Miss Honey’s miserable life. Using her newly found “superpower”, Matilda arranged a plan to take revenge on Miss Trunchbull for what she has done to Miss Honey.
My Thoughts—Spoiler Alert!
For children, this book could be enjoyable since logic won’t spoil the fun. They won’t think about how on earth stupid people like Mr. and Mrs Wormwood could have a daughter as bright as Matilda. And maybe they won’t wonder why the antagonist has a horrible name like Trunchbull and the protagonist has a name so sweet and innocent like Honey. For most people, this book might be an innocent reading, a quick stroll into childhood. I like it that Matilda found comfort in books, when she was feeling depressed living with family who are so different from herself. But in the book I also found some things that I object, especially in the matter of family relationships. Maybe because, thankfully, I grew up in an encouraging and loving family, I never felt what Matilda felt. I just couldn’t get the idea of punishing your parents, no matter how irritating they are. And the ending as well, I just couldn’t get it. I mean okay, Matilda’s finally got her happily-ever-after, but why must the author broke the relationship between her and her family? Couldn’t he make them (Matilda’s family) change instead? Well, maybe I have taken the book a little bit too seriously, but this is what I think of it. On the other hand, this book could be a gentle reminder to ignorant parents. They should be able to see that a child is a human being who deserves their attention, and sometimes children are capable of things beyond older people’s comprehension.
In the end, MAYBE this is the message of Matilda:
Family is people whom you should always go home to if they are good people.
If they are bad people, then you can go home to other people who are nicer to you, form a bond with them, not by blood, but by heart.
P.S.: “MAYBE” means even though I wrote these words, it doesn’t mean that I agree with it.
27th review for The Classics Club Project / 8th review for Books in English Reading Challenge 2013 / 11th review for What’s in a Name Reading Challenge 2013 / 7th review for New Authors Reading Challenge 2013 / 3rd review for Fun Year with Children’s Literature event
Matilda, by Roald Dahl
240 pages, published March 1992 by Heinemann (first published August 1988)
My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
If you enjoy Home Alone franchise, then you would probably like the 1996 adaptation of Matilda as well. Directed by Danny DeVito, the movie is quite faithful to the original story, and was successful in bringing into life the abominable Miss Trunchbull and also the delicate Miss Honey. Matilda was pictured older than she actually was in the book (and rather gloomier than in the book, I think). One major difference between the book and the movie is that in the movie Matilda still has her powers after the whole business with Miss Trunchbull was over. In the book, she lost her powers—and she was glad about it. I think I prefer the ending in the book than in the movie.