Matilda the musical: dealing with Negative Childhood Experiences

Remember that book you read as a child, the one about a young girl with great intellect and telekinesis? Well, now it's a musical!


Those of us who grew up with Roald Dahl may recall the book Matilda. The tale of a young girl with impossible genius who manages to outwit the grownups around her has been capturing children’s hearts since the book was first published in 1988. Now, it has been adapted into a Broadway musical.

                                           Source: https://baseentertainment.com.sg/shows/matilda-the-musical/

The musical revolves around Matilda, a child who grows up with neglectful and abusive parents. To escape her circumstances, she teaches herself to read and soon grows a sizable intellect. When she is sent to school, she dazzles her lovable teacher, Miss Honey, while earning the ire of the school’s tyrannical headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Eventually, Matilda discovers she can use her mind to move objects, and uses her powers to overcome her life’s challenges.

Though the book and the musical fall under the children’s category, Matilda overlays with many insights that helps those of us who have experienced a negative childhood to hold a better perspective

The effects and coping strategies of negative childhood experienced is a core theme of the book.


The effects of abuse on an individual are portrayed through Matilda as she makes use of escapism to cope with her unhappy family situation. The story of the acrobat and her husband, that she tells to Mrs Phelps,  parallels her own life, mirroring the darkness and loneliness she feels at home.

                                                      Source: https://www.myimaginationkingdom.com/products/matilda-by-roald-dahl-paperback

A subtler version is shown in Miss Honey, who is Miss Trunchbull’s niece. In When I Grow Up, Miss Honey sings about her wishes of being “brave enough to fight the creatures…beneath the bed”. Her lack of self-confidence, despite being much older than Matilda, is also an effect of growing up under abuse or constant criticism.

Personal Growth

While childhood trauma can have negative effects that last a very long time, it can turn into the phenomenal personal growth once a person works through the struggle.

Despite the dismal situation, Matilda refused to give up, as she sings in the same song: “just because I find myself in this story / it doesn’t mean that everything is written for me”. Bad circumstances or problems do not last forever, and we have the power to change them. This attitude allows Matilda to keep hoping even when things look bleak, eventually enabling her to step into her own power.

Here’s more articles that are related:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


Toxic Authority




How parenting styles affect our relationships


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