What is the book summary of Matilda by Roald Dahl? What is the beginning, middle, and end about in Matilda?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Matilda, written by Roald Dahl, is a novel about a small girl named Matilda. Matilda is an extremely bright young girl but is ignored by her mean parents. In the beginning of the novel, readers learn that Matilda is so bright that she teaches herself to read and spends her days going to the local library in order to check out books.

While Matilda's parents are ignoring her, Matilda gets even. She plays tricks on her parents such as gluing her father's hat to his head and dying his hair blonde. One day, Matilda decides she wants to go to school.

The middle of the novel is about most of Matilda's time spent at school. At school, Matilda's teacher, Miss Honey, quickly realizes her potential. Miss Honey asks her headmistress, the Trunchbull, if Matilda could be moved into a higher level, but is denied. Matilda meets many friends at school, especially Lavender and Hortensia. Hortensia tells the girls many horror stories about the Trunchbull that turn out to be true.

As Matilda and Miss Honey bond, Matilda learns more about her teacher's life. She learns that Miss Honey used to be quite wealthy but when her father died, her awful aunt took everything from her. As it turns out, Miss Honey's mean aunt happens to be the Trunchbull herself. Matilda goes about using her bright mind and telekinetic powers to help Miss Honey get back what belongs to her.

Near the end of the novel, Matilda's parents announce one day that they are going to move to Spain. Matilda does not want to go with them and is allowed to stay and live with Miss Honey.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the beginning of Dahl's book the reader is made to believe the following very quickly:  Matilda Wormwood is misunderstood by her parents since the day of her birth.  Matilda is an exceptional, gifted, and almost supernatural child born to very average, unintelligent, and unimaginative parents. During her toddlerhood, Matilda asks her dad for a book and is pressured to watch television instead.  When she learns about the library, Matilda makes it a goal to get there and learn to read on her own (under the watchful eye of the neighborly librarian).  Matilda reads the classics, not just simple children's books, and is chastised by her parents for her intelligence.  Matilda always finds ingenius ways to get back at them, though, either by putting peroxide in her father's hair dye or superglue in his favorite hat. 

The middle of the novel greatly concerns Matilda's Kindergarten teacher, Miss Honey.  Miss Honey has discovered Matilda's genius as well, but when Miss Honey tries to suggest higher education to the parents, she is met with mega-resistance.  Meanwhile, the horrible headmistress at Matilda's school (who is also Miss Honey's aunt) abuses the children in all of her classes to no end.  Even though "The Trunchbull" is often seen hurling children out of windows and forcing kids to scarf down a class-size chocolate cakes, the worst torturous punishment the children can endure is to be slammed in "the Chokey." 

The end of Dahl's book revolves around Matilda's special powers.  Matilda's supernatural powers stem from the fact that she is psychokinetic (and can manipulate objects at will).  Matilda uses this to her full advantage both with her parents and with Trunchbull.  The climax of the book is when Matilda uses her powers to draw on the chalkboard in the name of "Magnus" in order to scare Trunchbull into leaving the school for good and giving Miss Honey her right inheritance.  Just as Matilda's parents are caught in their cheating business schemes and decide to move to Spain, Miss Honey asks if she can adopt Matilda.  The horrible Wormwoods drive away never to be seen again while Miss Honey and Matilda are left to a beautiful and happy life together.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial