Roald Dahl’s Problematic Gender Characterization of Miss Trunchbull in Matilda


Despite the popularity of Roald Dahl's last major work, Matilda (1989), there seems to be comparatively few scholarly criticisms about the main antagonist figure of Miss Trunchball.Matilda is a story about the struggle against tyranny, specifically Miss Trunchball. Trunchball is "monstrous" but is also a woman of significant positive assets such as her excellence in sports and she is also a principal of a school where she is the voice of authority. Her monstrosity is highlighted in her aggression against the children, especially the little helpless ones such as Matilda. Part of the behavior can be attributed to Miss Trunchball's lack of childhood and her ambiguous gender. When Miss Honey reasons that the Headmistress was once a "little girl," Miss Trunchball rebounds by saying that "not for long anyway" and says that "I became a woman very quickly." In this way, Trunchball is similar to the popular idol girls who are deprived of their childhood, who are forced to be anorexic and mature too fast. Although Trunchball becomes a masculine figure that is altogether different from the pretty and feminine idol girls, both have been deprived of childhood. Judith Butler in Gender Trouble says, 'There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; ... identity is performatively constituted by the very "expressions" that are said to be its results.' This essay examines the consequences of the deprivation of childhood in both Miss Trunchball and women in entertainment industry and how they perform their gender differently.

Author Information
Ji-Eun Kim, Yonsei University, Republic of Korea

Paper Information
Conference: ECCS2014
Stream: Gender studies / Feminist Theory

This paper is part of the ECCS2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon