Characters / Matilda

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    Matilda Wormwood 
Movie Played by: Mara Wilson (6-years-old); Alissa and Amanda Graham & Trevor and James Gallagher (newborn); Kayla and Kelsey Fredericks (nine months); Sara Magdalin (4-years-old)

The title character and main protagonist.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: An adorable child with the maturity of someone twice her age.
  • Badass Adorable: A brave little girl with supernatural powers.
  • Badass Bookworm: She prefers to read books rather than watch TV for fun.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Being accused of something she didn't do - and this is actually what triggers her Psychic Powers in the first place.
    • She can't stand children being hurt, or her books being taken from her.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Matilda is one of the nicest children you could wish to meet—as long as you don't make her mad.
  • Brainy Brunette: Very, very brainy.
  • Bully Hunter: Of the anti-Sadist Teacher variety.
  • Child Prodigy: Is she ever. She spoke in full sentences when she was one and a half, taught herself to read adult novels when she was four, and by the time she's in first grade, has already memorized the 12-times table (in the film, she is able to multiply 13 x 379 in her head in about 3 seconds, as well as figure out how much money her father earned in a day selling low-quality cars), can write limerick poetry, and single-handedly devises a plan to get rid of the school's abusive headmistress using nothing more than her powers and a piece of chalk.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Matilda has had adoption papers on hand since she was big enough to xerox.
  • Cute Bookworm: Matilda loves reading more than anything else.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Responsible to Michael's Foolish.
  • Genius Book Club: Matilda has already made significant inroads into the Western Canon by the time she starts school
  • Good with Numbers: She's able to multiply large numbers in her head in a few seconds.
  • Guile Hero: Once she learns Trunchbull's weakness - she's extremely superstitious, she exploits it to her full advantage.
  • Happily Adopted: By Miss Honey, at the end.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Lavender.
  • Kid Hero: She's only five in the book and musical, six and a half in the film.
  • Lady And A Scholar: Matilda is a genuinely sweet-natured kid, and never thinks of herself as superior for her brains. If she's asked anything intellectual, she will respond in a polite fashion. She really only dislikes people who are annoying or rude to her. The book carefully emphasizes this.
  • Like Parent Unlike Child: Matilda's parents are incredibly horrible and stupid people who prefer watching mindless Soap Operas and Game Shows. Matilda's father in particular is an incredibly dishonest car salesman. Matilda in contrast however is a very sweet and extremely intelligent girl who loves books and learning. She's also fully aware how wrong and dangerous the stunts her father pulls to make a quick buck. How she could be the child to such horrible people is beyond baffling.
  • Little Miss Badass: Able to use her prodigious intellect (and newly discovered telekinetic powers) against Trunchbull.
  • Mind over Matter: Matilda's telekinetic powers.
  • Nice Girl: It takes a lot to make her angry.
  • Only Sane Woman: An extremely smart little girl born into a family of dimwits. The kids at her school don't exactly seem like geniuses either.
  • Plucky Girl: So what's a little super-smart girl to do? Obviously, play some 'subduing' pranks on your boastful, corrupt father to take him down a peg, then develop your latent psychokinetic powers to help that nice teacher who recognised your genius.
  • Surpassed the Teacher: It is clear that Matilda has intellectual capabilities that are certainly beyond that of her teacher, Miss Honey.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: How Matilda probably felt, especially towards her family.
  • Token Good Teammate: Again, in her family.
  • The Un-Favourite: Her parents clearly prefer her brother Michael over her. In the movie Harry explicitly refers to Matilda as a "mistake" (when talking about his children with Miss Trunchbull he says: "I got a boy, Mikey, and one mistake, Matilda".)
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: She's the serious child to her wacky, ignorant parents.
  • White Sheep: Trying to overcome her family's conduct as they all are rude and dishonest jerks whilst she wants to be a good cultured book-loving girl who doesn't watch television.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: She says she likes to read just about anything. It's implied that the two reasons she wasn't in advanced placement (until the end) were because her parents don't believe in the value of education and, of course, The Trunchbull's dislike of young children.

    Jennifer Honey 
Movie Played by: Embeth Davidtz; Amanda and Kristyn Summers (2-years-old); Phoebe Pearl (5-years-old)

Matilda's kindly teacher.
  • Affectionate Nickname: In the movie, she reminisces that her father used to call her, "Bumblebee." Matilda makes note of this.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: In contrast to the hideous Trunchbull.
  • Broken Bird: Very much so, due to her Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Cool Teacher: There's a reason why all her students love her.
  • Cowardly Lion: She claims she wasn't brave enough to stand up to Miss Trunchbull, but she protects Matilda at every turn, from springing her out of the Chokey to taking the fall for being at her house. In addition, she is a Determinator in making sure Matilda's genius is recognized and finding other opportunities for Matilda when neither Miss Trunchbull nor the parents agree.
  • Daddy's Girl: As a child, she was very close to her father.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: A terrible childhood, due to the loss of her father. Being raised by her Aunt Trunchbull from that point onward certainly didn't help.
  • Fragile Flower: She's fragile both on the outside and the inside. The books describes her as "so slim and fragile one got the feeling that if she fell over she would smash into a thousand pieces, like a porcelain figure".
  • Friend to All Children: The main characteristic that makes her the polar opposite of the Trunchbull.
  • Hot Teacher: Apparently so lovely that she inspires Matilda to compose a poem about her the first day of class.
  • Meaningful Name: Miss Honey is a very sweet teacher.
  • Meganekko: Only in the book. Averted in the movie, she only wears glasses in one minor instance (when she was trying to solve Matilda's math problem).
  • Nice Girl: A kindhearted and selfless woman who genuinely cares about her students.
  • Not So Different: From Matilda. They both come from households with Abusive Parents or aunts but one day "things will be different".
  • Parental Substitute: To Matilda, obviously. She adopts her at the end.
  • Shrinking Violet: Unlike Matilda, she's very submissive and shy, especially when it comes to Miss Trunchbull. She gets better at the end.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: She may be a shy, sweet Fragile Flower, but she's not afraid to speak her mind, see below.
  • Took a Level in Badass: She finally stands up to the Trunchbull on behalf of her students near the story's end. What's especially noteworthy is that she musters up the physical strength to push one of the Trunchbull's arms away from her, despite the latter woman being an Olympian behemoth who has already broken Miss Honey's arm at least once in the past.

    Agatha Trunchbull 
Movie Played by: Pam Ferris

The cruel principal of Matilda's school.
  • Acrofatic: More huge and muscular than actually fat, but in the movie she does say, "I like a joke as well as the next fat person!" She's also seen gorging on massive amounts of chocolate cake, which she cites as a personal snack she probably eats every day. Yet, she is a former Olympian and maintains athletic prowess.
  • Ax-Crazy: She's always this.
  • Berserk Button: Miss Trunchbull hates many things, but one thing she apparently really can't stand is pigtails.
  • Big Bad: Matilda's father simply cannot hope to compete with her.
  • Brawn Hilda: She's a hulking, squinty-eyed, downright scary ex-jock with a rotten temper.
  • The Brute: Especially when chasing Matilda and Miss Honey around her house.
  • Child Hater: The only logical reason she could have decided to become a principal at an elementary school was so that she could have the authority to punish them however she pleased.
  • Dean Bitterman: She seems to be this trope taken to its irrational extreme, as the headmistress inflicts acts of extreme and horrible violence and cruelty upon her young students, knowing their parents won't believe them.
  • Destination Defenestration: One of her favorite methods of punishment.
  • The Dreaded: Even upperclassmen like Hortensia - and adults, like Miss Honey - are afraid of her. For most of the story, anyway.
  • Evil Aunt: To Miss Honey.
  • Evil Brit: She's portrayed as such in the film.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Miss Honey.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Than Harry Wormwood. While he usually berated and insulted Matilda, he at least never tried to hurt her physically.
  • Evil Is Hammy: At times.
  • Evil Teacher: She isn't just a Sadist Teacher, it's heavily implied that she was involved in the death of Miss Honey's father.
  • Evil Virtues: She surely isn't lacking in determination and force of will, given that she managed to compete in the Olympic Games. However, she's completely unwilling to teach such qualities to her students.
  • Fat Bitch: Rather ironic when considering that she used to be an Olympian in the past.
  • Faux Affably Evil: She at one point politely asks a child if he enjoyed the cake that he pilfered. When he confesses that he did, she brings out a much larger cake and orders him to eat it in front of the entire school.
  • For the Evulz: Miss Trunchbull's main reason to do anything.
  • Freudian Excuse: She mentions that she's glad she "never was" a child, which suggests she may have had a bad childhood. In the book, when Miss Honey objects to this for obvious reasons, Trunchbull backspaces and says she wasn't one "for long."
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: She loses her temper very quickly, and her fury and anger is downright scary.
  • Hypocrite: She boasts about children needing to build up a strong character, but everything she does is aimed at destroying it instead.
  • Jerkass: A sadistic child abuser.
  • Jerk Jock: As an ex-Olympian, she's pretty athletic.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Subverted. She's angry at Harry for the car he's sold her... but takes her anger out on Matilda instead.
  • Large Ham: On occasion.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Obviously she's struck by this at the end, but much more evident in the movie than in the book.
  • Laughably Evil: In the movie, thanks to Pam Ferris's performance. Absolutely horrible and scary yet entertaining.
  • Meaningful Name: As her surname would imply, she is absolutely horrific.
  • Misery Builds Character: Part of one of her speeches in the movie.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: As if Crunchem Hall wasn't already the school version of a concentration camp, her outfit in the film invokes this trope. She even gets a Hitler Cam close up shortly before force-feeding Bruce.
  • Nightmare Face: Thanks to an unflattering make-up and Pam Ferris' over-the-top expressions.
  • No Indoor Voice: She often yells at the students.
  • Obviously Evil: Her clear and obvious hatred of children along with her over-the-top punishments make it pretty obvious she's the antagonist. It's to the point that Miss Honey doesn't even doubt the idea Agatha likely murdered her father.
  • Sadist: She clearly enjoys the suffering she causes.
  • Sadist Teacher: She is the queen of this trope. Even Viola Swamp has nothing on her.
  • The Sociopath: Self-centered, violent, manipulative and a murderer to boot.
  • Sore Loser: After Bruce finishes the cake she force-fed to him and is met with cheers from the students, she makes them stay 5 hours after school and copy from the dictionary.
  • Stout Strength: A big, athletic, and muscular Brawn Hilda who is also able to lift a car.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: She LOVES chocolate and is seen eating chocolate cake and chocolate candies (in rather horrifyingly messy fashion).
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: An adorable, heartwarming story about a little girl with magic powers. And the insane Mrs. Trunchbull who murdered her step-brother-in-law, stole his daughter's inheritance, abused her for years (even going so far as to break her arm), then, while living in her murdered brother-in-law's house, terrorizes an entire school of children with some very cruel punishments (The Chokey, throwing them, you know normal school punishments).
  • Villain Has a Point: Subverted. While her speech about putting effort ("Perspiration!") in teaching is undoubtedly valid on a general level, it becomes awfully hypocritical when said by a principal whose only interest is terrifying and harming her own students.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After Matilda uses her psychic powers to terrify her.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: She's incredibly superstitious and fears snakes. She also fears black cats and ghosts.
  • Would Hurt a Child: And enjoy doing it. Her favored methods are throwing them out of windows and forcing them to stand in what amounts to a kind of Iron Maiden.

    The Wormwoods 
Mr. Wormwood, Movie Played by: Danny DeVito
Mrs. Wormwood, Movie Played by: Rhea Perlman

The mean and abusive parents of Matilda.
  • Abusive Parents: Matilda's parents verbally berate her and neglect her every need.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: When Miss Honey visits Matilda's parents, Mr. Wormwood noisily slurps a beer and both parents take cheap potshots at Matilda's teacher. In the movie, Matilda's super glue hat prank plays out in public.
  • Anti-Role Model: They are horribly negative examples of parents or people in general.
    Harry: Why would you want to read when you got the television set sitting right in front of you?
  • Big Bad Wannabe: As it turns out, Agatha Trunchbull is far worse than they are.
  • Butt-Monkey: Harry Wormwood, once Matilda works out how to get even with him without being found out.
  • Chubby Mama, Skinny Papa: They're this in the book, but it's inverted in the film.
  • Daytime Drama Queen: Matilda's parents are addicted to television, which is shown as one of their many character flaws. When Miss Honey goes to visit them at home, there's an American soap opera on, and Mrs. Wormwood in particular objects to being interrupted when "Willard is just about to propose to Angelica!". (The film version changes it to a boxing match, and Mrs. Wormwood gets upset for missing out on the end)
  • Dumb Blonde: Matilda's mother, though she dyes her hair.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Harry Wormwood tearing one of Matilda's library books to shreds. This appropriately leads to his Humiliation Conga.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Matilda's parents don't understand Matilda's love of books and learning, rejecting her for it. They prefer the more mundane Michael who is being coached to take over his father's company.
  • Fat Bastard: Matilda's mother in the book and her father in the movie.
  • Happily Married: Well, you can tell they are perfect for each other.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Mr. Wormwood's secondhand car business. Matilda's dad is the stereotypical sleazy car salesman, even putting sawdust in the oil so that the engine will burn out and they have to come back and buy a new car. The book contains a scene in which Mr. Wormwood teaches Michael the tricks to making a lemon look better.
  • Jerkass: Mr. Wormwood, whose used-car company sells cars made from stolen parts - at outrageous prices - that only survive for a few miles. And then there's how he acts around Matilda...
  • Karma Houdini: Mr. Wormwood manages to sell a defective car to the Trunchbull and get off scot free!
  • Laughably Evil: For the most part, Mr. & Ms. Wormwood (at least in the movie) are incredibly goofy as opposed to terrifying. While they're neglectful jerks, they're not violent to Matilda. They're silly, their home decor is pure kitsch and their fashion sense is very tacky. Most of their antics are played for laughs.
  • Meaningful Name: The Wormwoods (Matilda excepted) are as sleazy as they come.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Mrs. Wormwood's first name is not revealed in the book. The film calls her Zinnia.
  • Parental Favoritism: Matilda's parents inexplicably resent her and refuse to believe she is any more intelligent than a lima bean, favoring her average if not mildly-crooked brother, Michael.
  • Parental Neglect: The Wormwoods leave Matilda alone in the house, the entire day. It gets worse when Matilda starts going to school and they're not concerned for her safety, especially when she returns home at night.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • In the movie, it's somewhat implied at the end that despite all her neglect and dislike for her, Mrs. Wormwood does hold some affection for Matilda: she shows regret that she never understood her daughter and humanity by giving her daughter away because she is better suited to a life with Miss Honey (while in the book, both parents drop their daughter without a second thought).
    • Mrs. Wormwood telling her daughter that there's food for her every time she leaves. While, yes, she should stay at home and take care of her daughter or at least take her to a daycare, she has the decency to leave Matilda something to eat.
    • Mr. Wormwood has an even smaller example in the film, it seems as though there is some affection in him sending Matilda to school (his shrugging off of her hug when he informs seems more embarrassed than annoyed).
    • Mr. Wormwood has a strange enigmatic case of this in the musical. When it's clear the Mafia is after him, he runs to the library to find Matilda rather than leave her behind. In his conversation with Honey, he addresses Matilda as his daughter after spitefully calling her "boy" and actually questions leaving Matilda with a stranger. This astonishes Matilda and perhaps convinces her that there's some humanity left him in and she saves him from getting beaten by the Mafia.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Matilda's mother believes herself to be beautiful and seductive, while her husband regards himself as sly, clever, and intelligent. Both could not be further from the truth.
  • Smug Snake: Mr. Wormwood. Shown best when he gleefully brags about the tricks he uses to scam customers.
  • Starter Villain: Mr Wormwood serves as the antagonist for the first few chapters... but he quickly loses this title when the Trunchbull is introduced.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Both book and movie. In the book, Matilda's mother is tall and pudgy, and her father is short and skinny. While their Fat and Skinny roles are reversed in the movie, their heights are still the same as in the book.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: The Wormwoods are this to Matilda, but not to Michael.
  • Women Are Wiser: Book only, Mrs. Wormwood is marginally more rational than her husband; Mrs. Wormwood herself says something akin to this to Matilda.

    Michael Wormwood 
Played by: Brian Levinson; Nicholas Cox (6-years-old)

Matilda's older brother.
  • Adaptational Villainy: He goes from a normal boy in the book to an obnoxious Big Brother Bully in the movie.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: More than any other character in the story, Michael is very different between adaptations. In the book he's a completely average Generic Guy, while the movie treats him as a Big Brother Bully, and in the musical he's more of a Kindhearted Simpleton who completely lacks his parents' nastiness but is much too stupid to be of any use.
  • Big Brother Bully: In the movie. Averted in the book as he and his sister have a neutral relationship and it's implied that he treats her better than her parents (he's the only one to say goodbye to Matilda when the family flees the country).
  • Fat Bastard: Like his father (in the movie). He throws objects and insults at Matilda when they're alone. He's also physically big, being overweight.
  • Flat Character: In the book we know little about him outside that he seems to be average and 'inherited his father's love of crookery'.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: A mild example since we know little about Michael, but he could be considered the Foolish to Matilda's Responsible. Played very straight in the movie and the musical.
  • The Generic Guy: The book describes him as a "normal boy" and he never gets much characterization.
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: The musical's depiction of him. He's not a bad person, but he is about as stupid as Matilda is intelligent. Most of his dialogue consists of repeating the last word the person before him spoke, in a dopey voice.

Played by: Kiami Davael

Matilda's best friend.
  • Black Best Friend: To Matilda, in the movie and sometimes the stage musical.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Matilda.
  • Meaningful Name: Her name is another term for "purple" and in the movie Lavender is mostly seen in purple clothing.
  • Nice Girl: Lavender is a sweet and humorous child.
  • Pint-Sized Kid: Described in the book as very small and tiny for her age, especially in comparison with older girl Hortensia.
  • Plucky Girl: She did play a prank on Trunchbull.
  • Race Lift: In the book she was white, but is black in the movie. In the musical she is colorblind-cast.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Lavender is one of the smartest kids at Crunchem Hall, only second to Matilda.

Played by: Kira Spencer Hesser

Matilda's older friend.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the book she's fairly mean to Matilda and Lavender, though she does warn them about the Trunchbull. In the film she is friendly and protective of them.
  • Big Sister Mentor: To Matilda and Lavender.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Gave advice to newbie Matilda about Trunchbull. Although she's a Nice Girl only in the movie. Averted in the book where she looks down on Matilda and Lavender and even insults them.
  • Little Miss Snarker: In the movie.
    (After telling Matilda about how Trunchbull hurled a kid out of class for eating candy)
    Matilda: Was he okay?
    Hortensia: After being thrown out the window? Of course he wasn't okay.
    • When Trunchbull throws a little girl across the schoolyard by her pigtails, Hortensia's first comment is "Good loft!"
  • Ms. Exposition: Tells Matilda about the Chokey and other horror stories about the Trunchbull.
  • The Prankster: She pulled two pranks on Miss Trunchbull and was sent to The Chokey both times because of this. And that's just the two times she tells us about; apparently, she actually went to The Chokey six times total.

    Nigel Hicks 
A bright, if somewhat foolhardy, classmate of Matilda's.
  • Adapted Out: In the book he's the second-most prominent of Matilda's classmates, with only Lavender getting more attention. In the movie, he doesn't appear at all.
  • Badass Bystander: He mouths off to the Trunchbull, he bravely tries to stand up for miss Honey — and when Trunchbull faints out of fear for the "ghost of Magnus," Nigel reacts by throwing a mug of water at her. In the musical, he's the first one to stand up against Trunchbull by deliberately misspelling the word "cat" and start the entire Go Through Me scene.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Which gets him in trouble with Miss Trunchbull.
  • Fearless Fool: Played with. He clearly is afraid of Miss Trunchbull, but he still stands his ground and answers her in a very cheeky way even when she's in a rage.
  • Heavy Sleeper: Not really, but in the musical, Matilda claims to Miss Trunchbull that Nigel "suffers from the rare chronic sleep-disorder narcolepsy" to save him from punishment for a wrongly-accused prank. Nigel, of course, plays along.
  • Keet: He's rather small and very energetic.

    Bruce Bogtrotter 
Played by: Jimmy Karz

Another schoolmate that Matilda befriends.