The IUP Journal of English Studies
"What D'You Want a Flaming Book for?": Matilda Revisited

Article Details
Pub. Date : June, 2021
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES20621
Author Name : Susan Lobo
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Arts & Humanities
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 13

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Abstract

The protagonist of Roald Dahl's Matilda embarks on an ambitious reading project, avidly devouring a substantial quantum of literary classics from the local library. This paper revisits Dahl's much-loved book to examine the protagonist from the lens of her reading list with the contention that tracing her remarkable development corroborates what reading research has noted about the benefits of reading fiction. It seeks to demonstrate how Matilda's reading of serious literature empowers her with a far more advanced consciousness than she would have otherwise had, although her disposition to empathy remains open to debate. Finally, it proposes that her "return" to the world of the fairytale at the end of the book signifies not a regression, but a crucial step in her growth. The paper concludes with the assertion that with or without her magical powers, Matilda makes a compelling case for the transformative power of literature.


Introduction

Books play a seminal role in Matilda. The child protagonist, identified as "The Reader of Books" at the outset, is a gifted child able to read effortlessly by the time she is four. But, as Nikolajeva (2014, 1) has said, "Being able to read is not the same as reading." Matilda may be a child prodigy but she makes the effort to challenge herself in pursuit of the intellectual stimulation a mind like hers needs, plodding through a copious amount of books first at the library and then at home-and that makes all the difference. We might not know how actively Matilda has engaged with the texts she has read, but it is clear that some amount of engagement has taken place, going by her comments to Mrs. Phelps (the librarian), her interactions with those around her at home and at school, and those of her thoughts the narrator makes available to us. Matilda's remarkable development across a time span of less than two years corroborates what reading research has noted about the particular benefits of reading fiction. Research in the field of reading skills has sought to examine the power of literature to produce changes


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