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Matilda by Roald Dahl

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Objectifs
  • Découvrir un aspect de la thématique d'étude l'initiation, l'apprentissage
  • Approfondir ses connaissances sur le roman de Roald Dahl, Matilda
Points clés
  • Matilda Wormwood est la protagoniste d'un roman d'apprentissage pour enfant de Roald Dahl.
  • Douée de télékinésie, la petite fille est intelligente et attachante, mais différente des autres enfants et délaissée par ses parents.
  • Le monde des adultes auquel Matilda est confronté est dominé par le mal :
    • son père et son frère sont des escrocs
    • la directrice de l'école est avide d'argent et de pouvoir
  • L'amour et l'affection n'entre dans son monde que grâce à son institutrice.
  • Malgré tout, le récit est très comique, et les valeurs positives prédominent à la fin : loyauté, amour, justice. 

Matilda is a book for children written by British writer Roald Dahl in 1988. It deals with Matilda Wormwood, a very clever girl whose adventures fill the reader with joy. Matilda can be considered as an apprenticeship novel in the sense that it concentrates on Matilda’s youth and her social and moral motivations in life.

1. The Plot

The story takes place in a Buckinghamshire village. There, lives Matilda, a five and a half year old girl, with her parents who neglect her and whom she does not like much. Matilda is different from the other children she goes to school with, she learnt to read when she was 4, has read a lot since and she is gifted with telekinesis: she can move objects without touching them.

At school, Matilda is confronted to two adults, her teacher Miss Honey whom she likes a lot because she is soft and gentle and who is amazed at Matilda’s abilities, and Miss Agatha Trunchbull the headmistress, a tyrannical woman who likes to terrorize her students. Miss Trunchbull hates everybody even Miss Honey who is in fact her niece. She raised her and she keeps her parents’ money so Miss Honey has to live in poverty in a derelict house.

Thanks to her powers, Matilda finally manages to frighten Miss Trunchbull so much that she leaves the region after handing over her niece what belongs to her, her house and her money.

As for Matilda’s parents they must leave the country too because the police want to arrest them for selling stolen cars. As Matilda refuses to go with them she asks Miss Honey if she can live with her and as the school teacher accepts, both are pleased with this happy ending.

2. Matilda and the World of Adults

Very early Matilda discovers that the world she lives in is not a good world as evil dominates. She is confronted to the pangs of life in her early childhood. Her parents hate her and his father and brother are crooks, Miss Trunchbull is greedy and is only interested in money and power, whatever the means to get them.
There seems to be no love or affection in her life until she meets Miss Honey. Indeed, only her schoolteacher cares for her and as the story goes a strong bond develops between them. Both are solitary characters who need love.

In spite of the hardships of life she has to face, Matilda is able to overcome them as she is different from a normal child. Her intelligence is so great that she has no difficulty, though very young, finding the proper reactions to what happens to her.
Of course it is always comical and we must not forget that Matilda is first and foremost a book for children. Even Miss Trunchbull can be considered as a comical character as she often throws children in the same way as she used to throw the hammer in the Munich Olympics. But her early years must lay the foundations for her future years so no wonder punishment, corruption, evil, hate or greed occupy an important part in the story. Luckily, they are beaten in the end and they are replaced by positive values such as loyalty, reward, justice and love.

3. Conclusion

Though written for children everybody can read Matilda, whatever the age, as it is a story about the relationships between people. As often Roald Dahl chooses a young hero to show how difficult life is and how cruel adults can reveal themselves sometimes. Matilda is, like Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens, 1838) or David Copperfield (Charles Dickens, 1850), a novel based on childhood and it teaches us how difficult it is for a child to grow up when you are surrounded by evil characters.

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Matilda by Roald Dahl