Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review of Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she's knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she's a super-nerd and the teacher's pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda's world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there's the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. ("The") Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable--the big surprise comes when Matilda discovers a new, mysterious facet of her mental dexterity. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.

Some of you will remember me mentioning that Matilda is one of my all time favorite books. Even today when I asked to list my top 5 favorite novels, I still always give mention to Matilda. There are many things which I love about Dahl's tale of an adventurous and intelligent girl.

Every time I read this book Dahl makes me laugh out loud consistently. I particularly love it when he talks about the comments he would make to parents about children who he believes are unintelligent.

"A particularly poisonous little girl might sting me into saying, "Fiona has the same glacial beauty as an iceberg, but unlike the iceberg she has absolutely nothing below the surface." p.9

Considering that I already tend towards frankness and that if I were a teacher, these passages would only fuel my fire, I don't think I could ever be as wonderful as Miss Honey, who I find to be one of the most heartwarming and charming characters in children's literature. I think Roald also does a fantastic job of depicting how Matilda deals with her family. Normally, passive aggressive behavior annoys me to death, but her pranks are so creative in contrast with her father ordering her to watch television that I can't help but smile.

As much as I talk about Dahl's brilliant humor, this book definitely has some serious elements. When I looked back at this book with older eyes versus as a young child, the family dynamics are slightly more disturbing. I consider myself a very family-oriented person and am lucky to have awesome parents, so I find that the parents lack of concern for Matilda's happiness or well being rather unnerving. Ultimately, Matilda is my absolute favorite character in this novel. When I first read this book, I loved her (and still do) because she is a voracious reader who is very intelligent and funny. However, what has always stuck with me is the fact that this book inspired me to read more and explore new books (cheesy, but its why I love it!). I think there is one critical sentence about the new knowledge sense of agency which Matilda got from reading that truly inspired me.

"The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who led exciting lives." p. 21

Matilda is one of the first books that gave me this very feeling, and I've gotten it from many since, as well as many other reactions from inspiration to looking at something in an entirely different light. To finish this review, I can only express my gratitude towards Roald Dahl for writing a book which encompasses all of this in such an entertaining and lovely story.

1 comment:

  1. I love Matilda also-I first read it maybe 5 years ago then I shared it with my 3 daughters, then 7, 9 and 12 and they all loved it and read it multiple times-they are also crazy for the movie-I enjoyed reading your post a lot



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