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Headscratchers / Matilda

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1996 Movie

  • What happened to Michael, after the Wormwoods went to Guam to escape the authorities?
    • Michael is with them in the car (he shouts out "I'll be an only child again!" as Matilda's parents are contemplating Matilda's adoption), so it's safe to assume that Michael went with their parents to Guam.
      • Which can serve as Fridge Horror of its own, seeing that the Wormwoods got most likely arrested in Guam, ending with Michael in an orphanage, on the street or similar. While he had been a lazy bully, he was mostly victim of being groomed into one, just to end up suffering for his parents deeds and not having been Happily Adopted like Matilda.
      • If his parents were arrested, he would most certainly not end up on the street. He'd be put into foster care and he might end up in a better family, who could even raise him into being a better person.
      • This is a Roald Dahl story though. For all we know, he might be a mouse now.
  • The kids not only pelt the Trunchbull with food, but with WATER BALLOONS. Considering the way Crunchem Hall is run, how and why would they have water balloons on their person at the time?
    • Perhaps every kid in school is looking for a chance to prank the Trunchbull?
    • I suppose Matilda's first act of standing up to the Trunchbull when she was abusing Bruce helped light a fire under all the other students. Lavender for example puts the newt in the Trunchbull's water as revenge for locking Matilda in the Chokey. Likewise Miss Honey was compelled to break Matilda out against the Trunchbull's wishes. Matilda had stood up to her in the assembly and that prompted them to do the same. So it's possible the kids may have been looking for opportunities to get back at her too.
    • The answer might be found in the book, where the students do prank Trunchbull when they can. It's treated as a war — Trunchbull tries to oppress them and they fight back in the ways they can. This is most clearly showed in the book's scene where Hortensia is telling Matilda and Lavender about life at Crunchem Hall — where Hortensia in the movie just talks about the hellish nature of the school, book-Hortensia brags about the pranks she's played on Trunchbull. Though the kids in the movie seems a lot more cowed and oppressed, it's possible they do occasionally try to fight back with pulling pranks like their book counterparts.
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    • The balloons are probably a consequence of the warlike environment of the school - as explained above. The water, however, as well as how the kids got such a supply on such short notice, has a very simple alternative explanation.
  • How come the other teachers are not shown? Only three adults at the school are shown, all are women by the way.
    • Two-Teacher School? Though, since, according to the epilogue Miss Honey extended it into an Elevator School as principal, they do have other teachers but we don't see them because they're not the focus.
    • Because it's an elementary school and Matilda therefore only has one teacher. We don't see the others because Matilda doesn't attend their classes. She only sees the Trunchbull because a) the woman has dealings with her father and b) she makes a weekly visit to every class.
  • Minor detail: If Matilda got the adoption papers by copying a book in the library, why is her name already typed on them?
    • The librarian went along with her plan and typed them up for her.
    • Just as modern libraries have computer labs, older ones sometimes had public typewriters. Matilda could have filled them out herself.
  • Perhaps the most obvious question: Yes, the Trunchbull gets away with her punishments because they're legitimately too insane to believe. Fine. But why didn't some of the parents raise objections when their kids came home, say—
    • Terrified and acting emotionally abused
    • Bloody or bruised
    • In the case of the 1996 film, five hours late? Especially considering that everyone else's parents are supposed to be great compared to Matilda's (see book and musical), what exactly is the deal here?
    • Adults Are Useless. Great but useless.
    • Values Dissonance. Back when the book was first written - or from the author's childhood. Schools could probably pull stunts like that back in Dahl's day. For the "five hours late" stunt, maybe the Trunchbull called the parents and said that their children had "misbehaved and were in detention"... For all we know, the parents had the options of taking their kids home. We just know Matilda came home five hours late because her own parents are that careless.
  • In the same year the film came out, a first-grader named Jonathan Prevette was disciplined for kissing a classmate, which caused his mother to stage protests against the school district board, and ultimately sparked a public debate on the role schools should play in penalizing misbehaving students (and whether or not his actions constituted sexual harassment in the first place). Therefore even as far back as 1996, there were overprotective parents who have a propensity of taking action based on what their children say or what they interpret, regardless of their plausibility. Ms. Trunchbull would most likely have immediately been protested and investigated by her superiors as soon as she mistreated a student who had parents like that, instead of being able to cow the entire school into silence because no-one was listening to them, or took them seriously.
    • As for bruised and beaten, there are plenty of real life cases where children are bullied but the parents never find out. Children get into all sorts of scrapes, so a line about falling in the playground seems much more believable than getting thrown over the fence by the school's evil principal.
      • Eventually though the other families would hear similar reports among the students. This would prompt investigation. It seems that the Trunchbull hasn't been around for that long, maybe a few years, as when students graduate from there and become old enough they would be believed, then the Trunchbull would be screwed.
    • Who knows, since she's Miss Honey's abusive aunt, maybe she terrorized the parents, too? The kids are supposed to be 6-7, she's implied to be in her late 40s-early 50s, and the fact she's The Dreaded, this wouldn't be impossible.
    • And since she has a Big Fancy House, it's possible she uses her money to protect herself in the event of such a thing (yes the house doesn't legally belong to her, but she's bound to be quite well off if she's principal).
    • Plus, well, kids-lit logic. Children's literature, especially that of the fantastical sort which Roald Dahl traded in, often tends to exaggerate stuff in order to make the story more interesting and exciting. After-school detention is a common punishment experienced by children, so Dahl ups the ante and really illustrates what an utter bastard Trunchbull is by having her keep the kids back what is almost an entire school day on top of their existing school day.
  • When Matilda uses her mental powers to trick the Trunchbull into believing that her house had been haunted by Magnus in an attempt to retrieve Miss Honey's doll and two chocolates, she uses them to take Trunchbull's Olympics portrait into the fireplace and then put Magnus' portrait in its place, much to the Trunchball's dismay. By looking on her face, it's obvious that the Trunchbull loved her portrait but that she also anticipated its impending fate, so why she didn't run fast to rescue it from the "ghost" when she could have done it?
    • Well, the Trunchbull was quite scared over the situation, as papers were send flying by the wind and the windows were opening and closing. When one is scared, he/she doesn't have much time to consider what's going to happen later on, so perhaps the Trunchbull thought at the possibility that the ghost would use her portrait to hit her with it.
    • Because the painting was flying through the air, apparently guided by the ghost of a man she may have murdered. She was likely worried that if she got up and tried to save the portrait, what might the ghost do to her instead?
  • Anyone else think Trunchbull got off too easy? Considering she's implied to have murdered Magnus I think it would be better if she had died at the end (maybe having a fatal heart attack out of fear due to the "supernatural" stuff since it's been shown that for all her anger and cruelty she's really a coward at heart or committing suicide for fearing that Magnus' ghost would come back for her).
    • Maybe, but this is still a story for kids. Even for Roald Dahl, there's a limit to exactly how dark he can go in punishing his villains, especially for human villain in a comparatively more grounded story like Matilda. His villains that meet a particularly sticky end either tend to be actual monsters (like the Witches) or meet an end that is clearly absurd and over-the-top (like the Twits "disappearing" after spending too long standing on their heads). A heart attack or suicide would almost certainly be too "real" for what is, at the end of the day, a children's book.
    • Allegedly, there was a version of the book's ending where the Trunchbull runs screaming from the classroom and straight into the arms of the police, where she's taken away in handcuffs while the children jeer from the windows. It's unclear why Dahl rejected this more realistic ending, though it's possible it was less empowering or satisfying than allowing Matilda to defeat her singlehandedly. But you're not the only person to think the Trunchbull got off too lightly: at least one stage adaptation includes an epilogue stating that the Trunchbull was arrested when she accidentally admitted to murder while reporting that she was being haunted.
    • If you think about it, she wasn't just scared out of the school. She lost her job, her house and presumably any credibility if she went around claiming she was being attacked by ghosts. She's either been Driven to Madness or left destitute. She may also have to live in fear for the rest of her life that Magnus's ghost could come at her again to punish her. Or more mundanely, once there was no fear of her retaliation, Miss Honey reported her to the proper authorities to make sure she was taken away.
  • This has bothered me ever since I first saw the movie: when Miss Trunchbull awoke from her faint, why the hell did she just grab that random boy standing close to her and throw him out the window? He hadn't done anything to piss her off, why did she suddenly want to murder him?
    • A) She's an incredibly wicked woman who does this sort of thing to students as punishment for the slightest offences such as eating candy in class. B) She's well and truly lost her mind over apparently being haunted by the ghost of Magnus. C) She's used to being all powerful and untouchable, and now that power is slipping away from her, so throwing him out the window might have been a vain effort to regain control.

The Musical

  • We're strongly set up to believe that Matilda's story is based on a fantasy about her own life because we hear her parents throw out the words 'escapologist' and 'acrobat' before she seemingly creates characters with those names. It's odd, though, as 'escapologist' seems an incredibly unlikely word to come from the mouth of her knowledge-hating father. Later, the eventual reveal shows that Matilda's story is nothing to do with her parents and is something she was picking up from elsewhere via psychic powers. Truly bizarre coincidence on top of highly unlikely word choice? A sign that Matilda's powers were affecting her parents? Or a sign that they might have some dormant powers of their own?

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