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Tear Jerker / Matilda

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"My mummy says I'm a lousy little worm.
My daddy says I'm a bore.
My mummy says I'm a jumped-up little germ, that kids like me should be against the law.
My daddy says I should learn to shut my pie hole. No one likes a smart-mouthed girl like me.
Mum says I'm a good case for population control.
Dad says I should watch more TV..."
Matilda Wormwood, "Miracle"

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  • In an early draft of the book, Matilda died when trying to use telekinesis to lift a truck in a car accident. It was kept that way until Roald got the idea of Magnus' story, which is also very sad.
  • Amanda gets screamed at by Miss Trunchbull for wearing her hair in pigtails (which she does because her mother told her they look pretty), grabbed by her pigtails and thrown across the courtyard. While it is Played for Laughs, imagine how traumatic it is from her perspective.
  • The sheer duress Miss Honey undergoes when Miss Trunchbull physically abuses the students while sitting in on their class. She keeps shouting at Miss Trunchbull to stop because she could seriously hurt them, but Miss Trunchbull doesn't listen. Miss Honey afterward asks how the students are, and futilely advises Nigel to not mouth off at her. She's quite serious when Nigel promises to grow big enough and beat Miss Trunchbull because "no one has gotten the better of her yet".
  • The Reveal that Miss Honey's story about a little girl who grew up terrorized by the Trunchbull is about her, and the realization of just how horrific this sweet woman's life was. It's even worse in the movie.
    • The Trunchbull deliberately gave Miss Honey crappy wages to keep her in line, so when she left, she couldn't afford things like proper furniture, central heating, or a bath (she washes standing up), leaving this wonderful teacher living in what amounts to an animal shed. The only things she can afford is enough food to get her through to lunch. Miss Honey still considers this better than the alternative of living with her aunt and being treated more like a domestic servant than flesh-and-blood. Matilda theorizes that the bad wages were to keep Miss Honey trapped at home, and it wouldn't be a surprise if she was right.
    • If all that wasn't bad enough, Miss Honey was also half-drowned on a regular basis. Apparently, after her father died, the Trunchbull would make her bathe by herself, and if she thought that she hadn't done a good enough job washing up, she would hold her head under the bathwater to punish her.
    • Miss Honey also doesn't believe that her father killed himself, but she doesn't want to consider Matilda's theory that her aunt killed him. There isn't any proof, and she still has to work with the woman.
  • Mrs. Wormwood has a moment of worry when she comes home and sees Matilda sleeping at an odd time, waking her up and asking her if she's sick. It shows that for all her neglect, she does care for her children, more than her movie counterpart does.

  • Mara Wilson, the actress who played Matilda, lost her mother to breast cancer during filming. Her adult co-actors, like Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, noted how bravely and maturely Mara dealt with it, and the film ended up dedicated to Suzie Wilson's memory.
  • Near the beginning, it's mentioned that Matilda had no friends before school, and her parents didn't really love her. As the narrator says this, we see a book she's reading as her tear drops fall on it.
  • A very subtle one courtesy of the prop department, but despite the common areas of Matilda's house being full of expensive and tacky clutter, Matilda's room is another matter. The actual furniture and bedding are sparse and cheap-looking, and the only decorations are Matilda's drawings and a flower growing in a coffee can. Her doll, which she cuddles during the "you are not alone" scene mentioned above, is crudely stitched from and decorated with things Matilda presumably found around the house, including pipe cleaners, makeup, fake nails and bits of clothing that presumably came from her mother's closet. Yet for all it demonstrates Matilda's superhuman self-possession and creativity, it's also a sign of how badly the Wormwoods have failed their daughter.
  • Miss Honey's introduction scene as she unties Amanda's braids and thanks her for the flowers.
    Narrator: Miss Honey was a wonderful teacher, and a friend to everyone. But her life was not as simple and beautiful as it seemed. Miss Honey had a deep, dark secret. Though it caused her great pain... she did not let it interfere with her teaching.
  • Harry tearing up Matilda's library book and makes her watch TV against her will, demanding she act like a Wormwood. In response, she blows up the TV when she gets angry enough. Matilda's had it with pranks and calling out her father.
  • The Reveal that Miss Honey's story about a little girl who grew up terrorized by the Trunchbull is about her, and the realization of just how horrific the sweet woman's life was.
    Matilda: This was your home.
    Miss Honey: Yes.
    Matilda: (smiling) The young woman was you! (face falls) But then... no.
    Miss Honey: Yes. Aunt Trunchbull. (sniffles)
    • During the last line, we see a brief flashback of Trunchbull menacingly approaching a young Ms. Honey after her father's death, this time with the child's scared face shown.
  • Trunchbull kicking the black cat. Poor thing.
  • When Miss Honey tries to come to Matilda and the school children's defense, only to be threatened to have her arm broken again.
    Miss Honey: Miss Trunchbull, I was the one who went by the house last night- (gets her arm grabbed by Trunchbull) Ow!
    Trunchbull: I broke your arm once before, I can do it again, Jenny!
    Miss Honey: (yanks her arm free) I am not seven years old anymore, Aunt Trunchbull!
    The schoolchildren: (gasp)
    Trunchbull: Shut your holes!
  • Miss Trunchbull casually mentions that she and "Jenny" have regular heart-to-hearts. This means that Miss Honey faces her abuser and her boss on a regular basis but does it anyway for the benefit of her students.
  • At the end of the movie, Mrs. Wormwood shows just a glimmer of understanding who she's losing: "You're the only daughter I've ever had, Matilda... and I never understood you, not one little bit..."

  • Listening to Matilda's ending to "Miracle" where she talks about what her parents say about her is particularly sad, especially for anyone who's had abusive parents.note  Not to mention the adulation other adults such as Mrs. Phelps give her, telling her that her parents must consider her to be truly one-in-a-million and Matilda lies to agree while the audience is all to aware of how painfully untrue it is.
    • Then it comes to a head just before "My House", where Ms Honey tells her the same. Matilda faces away and begins reciting her bit ("Oh, yes", etc.), but stops halfway through and tells Ms Honey the truth about her home life.
  • The sheer hopelessness and despair dripping from "The School Song", where the upperclassmen tell the new students that the school is "a living 'ell" and that the only way to minimize their suffering while attending the school is to never cry or step out of line.
    Have suffered in this J-ail
    I've been trapped inside this K-ge for ages
    This living 'L
    But if I try I can rem-M-ber
    Back before my life had N-ded
    Before my happy days were O-ver
    Before I first heard the P-ling of the bell...
  • During "Pathetic", Miss Honey calls herself pathetic for being too scared to knock on Miss Trunchbull's office door.
  • From the musical: Bruce gets sent to Chokey in between acts. For most of the second act, he wears a sign stating that fact (probably to intimidate other students). When all the students in Matilda's class stand up to the Trunchbull, he's the only one who stays in his seat and does absolutely nothing, still wearing the sign. The Trunchbull's methods are incredibly messed up, but incredibly effective.
    • Fortunately, he gets better, seeing how he leads the beginning of "Revolting Children".
  • "When I Grow Up" involves the students singing sentimentally about their adult lives. At one point Miss Honey joins in as though she believes she hasn't grown up yet) and "Quiet" (in which Matilda is angry at being told to be quiet). Also
  • The tale of the Escapologist and the Acrobat. They're basically a married couple who have been trying for years to have children, without success. Filled with despair, they begin preforming more and more dangerous acts, until finally they announce their most dangerous act of all time, which involves the acrobat being covered in dynamite, the Escapologist being stuck in an elaborate straitjacket, and their lives on the line. But wait, just before they perform the act, they announce that the Acrobat is pregnant, so they don't have to preform the deadly trick after all! However this is just a hope spot that gets cruelly snatched away when the Acrobat's Sister, who organized the entire show and publicity, demands that they honor the terms of their contract...
    "A Contract is a Contract is a Contract!"
    • And so they do the trick, and everything seems to be going well. The Escapologist escapes from his straitjacket, the Acrobat swings at just the right time and... just misses her mark, falling to the ground and breaking every bone in her body. They manage to save the baby, but not the Acrobat. Brokenhearted, the Escapologist allows the Acrobat's sister to move into his home, so that his Daughter might have someone to look after her while he's at work. Unfortunately, the Acrobat's Sister is the worst possible Guardian for the little girl, finally exploding one day and throwing the girl in a cupboard before locking the door. There's one more cruel hope spot in the form of the Escapologist coming home early and vowing to confront the Acrobat's Sister over this atrocity, before never being heard from again.
      • In some productions of the musical, the Escapologist actually does catch the Acrobat, but applies too much foam to douse the flame, thus giving Magnus more responsibility for his wife's death.
    • And the cap to all this? The story of the Acrobat and the Escapologist is the story of Miss Honey's parents. She was the little girl, and the Acrobat's Sister was none other than The Trunchbull.
    • There are also strong implications that even though Matilda subconsciously tapped into Honey's mind when she encountered her, the story also in some ways reflect Matilda's own yearning for loving parents who wanted her as much as Honey's parents desired a child.
    • Magnus Honey's posthumous Counterpoint Duet with his daughter in the last verse of "My House" is easily the musical's most heartbreaking moment.