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Matilda, the book’s protagonist, is an extraordinarily bright young girl with unique gifts. This is revealed within the first few pages when the narrator describes a girl who is sensitive and brilliant, with a nimble mind that is quick to learn. The list of accomplishments during her first few years suggests endless potential: speaking perfectly before she’s two, reading by three, and searching out books by the time she is four. However, she lives at her home with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, who are “the most half-witted of parents,” incapable of recognizing her brilliance. The story’s main conflict involves her relationship with her parents and potentially other adults who look down upon her.
Despite her many extraordinary gifts, Matilda is humble and innocent, seemingly unaware that she is any different than the other five-year-olds. In fact, when Miss Honey tells her that she’s precocious, she asks, “Am I really?” She, the narrator explains, never showed off and had no trouble fitting in at school with the other children her age.
Matilda is intelligent, and she also has a strong sense of fairness. She knows the difference between right and wrong. She would have no problem being punished for something she did, but it was a totally new experience for her to be accused of a crime she had not committed as in the scene with Miss Trunchbull and the newt. but it was a totally new experience for her to be accused of a crime that she had not committed” This same scene reveals another of Matilda’s qualities, her loyalty. Another child, if wrongly accused by Miss Trunchbull, might have ratted on the person who did, but Matilda remains silent (and loyal) to Lavender.
Matilda, not one to sulk, takes matters into her own hands. She is resourceful, brave, and selfless. When she gets revenge on her parents, particularly her father, it isn’t so much to be spiteful but to encourage him to change his behavior, which, sadly, only happens temporarily. She returns kindness with kindness, as in the case of Miss Honey. Matilda resolves to help Miss Honey and to seek justice for the way she has been treated, which Matilda can certainly relate to given her own wretched home life.
Matilda’s brilliance, goodness, and sense of justice shine so brightly that it is very easy to see the cruelty of the antagonists in the story. In the end, Matilda has all the power, when she chooses her own destiny—a home, and a new family with Miss Honey.