Study Guide Comparing and Contrasting Matilda the Book vs the Matilda Movie

Study Guide Comparing and Contrasting Matilda the Book vs the Matilda Movie
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Roald Dahl’s story, Matilda was eventually made into a movie. For the most part, the movie version stays very close to the original. As can be the case with movies adapted from books, however, differences do exist. Here, we will explore these points as we compare and contrast Matilda the book and the Matilda movie.

The Book

Published in 1988, Matilda is the story of a precocious little girl of the same name who lives at home with her brother and self-absorbed parents who find Matilda to be nothing more than a snotty nuisance. Possessing a great intellectual capacity, Matilda teaches herself to solve difficult computations and read novels - all by the age of 4 1/2. Matilda uses this intellect to execute a series of pranks meant as revenge for her parents mean-spirited behavior and berating.

Upon entering school, Matilda meets classmates and a very special teacher who are all in awe of her abilities - with the exception of Miss Trunchbull, the over-bearing and cruel Headmistress. Through this experience, Matilda discovers that her powers go beyond superior intellect and into the realm of the supernatural.

According to the official Roald Dahl website, this award winning book was the “biggest seller amongst Roald Dahl’s books for children.

The Movie

Matilda the Movie

The movie was released in 1996 and was directed by Danny DeVito, who also starred as Mr. Wormwood alongside Mara Wilson (Matilda), Rhea Perlman (Mrs. Wormwood), Embeth Davidtz (Miss Honey) and Pam Ferris (Miss Trunchbull).


  • For the most part, the names of the main characters remained the same from book to movie. Two exceptions would be Mrs. Wormwood’s first name (which we are told is “Zinnia” in the movie, but is never revealed in the book) and the nickname Miss Honey’s father has for her (which is “my little bumblebee” in the movie and “Jenny” in the book.)

  • For the most part, the main locations in the setting remain the same: The Wormwood house, the village library, the school, Miss Honey’s cottage and Miss Trunchbull’s home.

  • Matilda’s parents are self-absorbed and verbally abusive in both stories.

  • Mr. Wormwood is portrayed as a dishonest salesman in both the book and the movie.

  • In both Matilda the book and the Matilda movie, Matilda befriends the local librarian as her love of reading grows.

  • Matilda plays a series of pranks on her parents as a form of punishment for the way they treat her.

  • Matilda goes to school, where she meets Miss Honey, Miss Trunchbull and a group of classmates whose names remain the same.

  • At the school, Matilda is witness to Miss Trunchbull’s unique methods of disciplining students.

  • Matilda spends time practicing her powers in both the book and the movie.

  • Matilda exacts revenge on Miss Trunchbull using her new powers.

  • Miss Trunchbull leaves the school in both versions, and Miss Honey regains possession of her father’s home.

  • Matilda goes to live with Miss Honey at the end of both the book and the movie.


  • The book’s setting takes place in England, the movie’s setting takes place in America.

  • The mom is fat and the dad is skinny in the written version. It is just the opposite in the movie.

  • In the book, Mr. Wormwood rips up Matilda’s library copy of The Red Pony. In the movie, it is Moby Dick.

  • For the book, Matilda plays three tricks on her parents. (The ghost, the hat and the hair dye.) In the movie, she only plays two. (The hat and the hair dye.)

  • A boy is thrown out of a classroom window for eating licorice in the novel. In the movie, he is eating M&Ms.

  • In the movie, Miss Trunchbull throws Amanda Thripp by the pigtails into a pile of flowers which she scoops up and brings to Miss Honey. In the book, Amanda lands on the grass, bounces three times and then gets up to return to the playground.

  • Matilda never goes in The Chokey in the book, but she does in the movie.

  • Matilda’s powers are thought of as “miracles” in the book, and more as supernatural powers in the movie.

  • Miss Honey’s father had nicknamed her “my little bumblebee” in the movie, but in the book he just refers to her as “Jenny.”

  • In the movie, Miss Honey and Matilda enter Miss Trunchbull’s home to try and retrieve a doll from Miss Honey’s childhood. They are, however, unsuccessful. Matilda then returns once again on her own to retrieve the doll and frighten Miss Trunchbull into believing the ghost of Miss Honey’s father has returned, but accidentally leaves a hair ribbon behind. Miss Trunchbull finds the ribbon and then confronts Matilda about it in the classroom. This sub-plot never occurs in the book.

  • Miss Trunchbull threatens to sue Mr. Wormwood for selling her a defective car in the movie version. This never occurs in the book.

  • In the movie, the kids throw their lunches at Miss Trunchbull, they do not do that in the book.

  • At the end of the movie, Miss Honey is made principal. In the book, the job goes to Mr. Trilby - who does not appear at all in the movie.

  • Matilda loses her powers in the book. In the movie, she does not.

  • In the book, it is not mentioned until the end that Mr. Wormwood is actually in cahoots with criminals (he has been receiving stolen cars). In the movie, that portion of the plot takes a more prominent role. The FBI stakes-out the home, and interacts with the family because they believe Mr. Wormwood has been dealing stolen car parts.

  • In the book, Matilda’s family flees to Spain. In the movie, they are fleeing to Guam.

  • Matilda’s parents sign her over to Miss Honey with adoption papers in the movie - they do not in the book.

To further understand the similarities and differences between Matilda the book and the Matilda movie, consult the other study guides available within this series.


  • Dahl, Roald. (1988). Matilda. New York, NY: Scholastic Books.
  • Roald Dahl Biography. Retrieved February 1, 2010, from The Official Dahl website. Website:
  • Movie image retireved from February 2, 2010.

This post is part of the series: A Comprehensive Study Guide for the Book Matilda by Roald Dahl

Written by acclaimed children’s author, Roald Dahl, the story of young Matilda will delight all who read it. Use this comprehensive study guide series to increase comprehension and gain a better understanding of the author, the plot, the story characters and the subsequent movie version of the book

  1. Learn About Matilda’s Author, Roald Dahl, and the Book’s Setting & Plot
  2. The Characters in Roald Dahl’s Book: Matilda
  3. Chapter Summary and Study Guide for Matilda Book by Roald Dahl
  4. The Similarities and Differences Between the Book and Movie of Matilda by Roald Dahl