When I think of my childhood and the characters I associated with the most, two main people always spring to mind; Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Matilda, from the Roald Dahl book of the same name. I was obsessed with books from a young age, far more than anyone else I knew, which meant I quite often felt somewhat distanced from those around me. My poor parents would continually allow themselves to be dragged to the library where I would take out the maximum number of books to greedily devour at home. Remind you of anyone? As you might imagine I’ve always felt a connection to Matilda and I loved both the book and the brilliant movie adaptation growing up. Feeling a bit nostalgic recently I decided to re-reread the book!
For anyone who doesn’t know, Matilda is the story of a young and incredibly talented girl. With parents and an older brother who take little interest in her (unless it’s to shout at her), it’s amazing that this tiny little girl is naturally so very knowledgeable and intelligent. From a young age Matilda takes herself to the library, quickly reading all of the children’s books and moving onto the adult ones. By the time she starts school for the first time Matilda has far surpassed the rest of her class, a wonder her teacher, Miss Honey, is amazed by. Yet despite her talents and kindness Matilda is not loved by all. The headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is a fierce bull of a woman, who thinks nothing of grabbing a little girl by her plaits and swinging her high into the air. Can Matilda overcome not only this evil teacher, but also her criminal parents?
The thing I love about Roald Dahl in all of his books is just how openly honest and humorous he is with his young readers. Matilda is a prime example of this, with comedic moments throughout which place young readers on the winning side. Roald Dahl makes no distinctions between his own adult self and his readers, speaking to them very much on the same level so that his narrative skills seem more akin to a friend. The opening of Matilda is a great example of this, in which our narrator states how ‘Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful’ (p. 1). You’d never normally catch an adult admitting such a thing, but it is an honest truth about blind parenthood and a fact children know only too well!
Of course, one of the things which appeals to me so massively about this book is the wonderful literary message which it supports throughout. Matilda is a passionate reader, and is reading many novels far above her own age range, including my beloved Charles Dickens. Despite her parents lack of understanding, always asking Matilda ‘What’d wrong with the telly, for heaven’s sake?’ (p. 6), Matilda sticks to her guns and does not conform to society’s expectations. I can’t help but applaud Dahl for not only writing such a caring and intelligent child, but also one who sees the importance of reading so widely.
As is standard with Roald Dahl’s books, once again we have here a cast of vibrant and remarkable characters which stay with you regardless of how much you like them as a person. From the hellish Miss Trunchbull to the angelic Miss Honey; once again he provides us with this colourful cast which were always sure to become iconic characters. It’s because of this that I think his books are so easily enjoyed by both adults and children alike. Regardless of age, we all have our own associations with these characters because they seem so very real and give us someone to hate or champion.
As always, I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this classic Roald Dahl book. Like all of his books we find here the same brilliantly uplifting message in which the children ultimately win and triumph against the evil adults. From iconic character such as Matilda, to the BFG and Willy Wonka; Roald Dahl’s imagination was endless, and it’s always joy to pick up one of his books. Hilarious, inspiring and above all imaginative!