What is the rationale for the poem Matilda by Hilaire Belloc?? 

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The rationale for the poem “Matilda” by Hilaire Belloc is that one should refrain from lying – or crying wolf – because one day, when you need someone to really believe what you are saying, they won’t. This poem is akin to the story about the boy who cried wolf. In essence, this poem is talking about Matilda, who is an incessant liar. One day she was bored and got on the phone to the fire brigade and lied to them – she said that the house that she and her aunt lived in was on fire and that they must come to save them and the house. This was all a lie and the aunt had to dissuade the fire brigade once they arrived there. She had to assure them that nothing was wrong – there was no fire.


However, the next time, when there really was a fire in the house, Matilda was home alone. Her aunt was at a play and never invited Matilda to go to the play. This was Matilda’s punishment for being a liar. The aunt was trying to teach her a lesson by banning her from attending the play. A fire breaks out in the house while the aunt is away and Matilda shouts down to onlookers from the window. She shouts ‘fire’ and they respond by calling up to her that she is a liar. They know Matilda’s proclivity for lying. In the end, when the aunt arrives home, Matilda is burned dead, and house is burned up as well.


Therefore, the rationale behind this poem is to point out that it is best to always tell the truth, even if lying is sometimes the easy way out. Essentially, lies catch up with us. Often, one has to tell multiple lies to cover up previous lies, and it becomes a vicious circle of deceit.


In addition, lying, as is the case in this poem, can be harmful to one. Here, Matilda needed people to believe her so she could be rescued. Her track-record of lying came back to haunt her. As a result, no one trusted her and this led to her demise. For our own protection then, and also to be moral persons, one should always strive to tell the truth so as to have the confidence of others in us at all times and especially in times of need.

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