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Ms. Honey v. Trunchbull

One of the earliest representations of teachers that some of us were exposed to came from Roald Dahl's "Matilda." Though on the surface the cast and portrayal do not seem gender-oriented, upon further analysis I feel that both characters of Ms. Honey and the headmistress, Ms. Trunchbull fall to certain ideals of masculinity and femininity.

As most would recall, Ms. Honey is the class' gentle, softspoken, and selfless homeroom teacher. Not only does she make learning for her students "fun" but also caters to their unacademic needs. At the end of the movie, she is the hero Matilda needs. Though, that notion of a female savior in itself is extremely heartwarming; one cannot deny that the character of Ms. Honey is rooted in a man's idea of what ideal femininity should be. She is gentle and quiet as "women should be." Her femininity is her charm, it is also what distinguishes her from the villainous headmistress.

In contrast, Ms. Trunchbull is overbearing. Someone with astounding physical strength and aggression. Though an abusive figure in the book, without a doubt, Ms. Trunchbull acts as the more masculine presence in the plot. One could argue that this reinforces the existing perceptions on how a woman should behave, how a teacher is expected to be liked, Aggressiveness doesn't look good on a woman, if she is physically strong and does not adhere to the hegemonic ideal of femininity she is more of a "man."

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Khubaib Riasat
Khubaib Riasat
Dec 15, 2021

The traits of both teachers are represented through their names, Miss Honey as soft and sweet and honey itself and Miss Trunchbull as a bull and a truncheon very tough and strong. Both fall into the good girl and bad girl categories of women bordered by men of the society. Miss Trunchbull is abrasive and noisy. A man performed the character of Trunchbell to depict the rage and authority she holds while Miss honey being soft, gentle, and subservient. However, the character of Miss Honey sets unrealistic expectations of a teacher's relationship with students, played by a young woman being ever compassionate and lovely.


Our first glimpse of miss honey makes it clear that she is sweet and virtuous, however, there are several safeguarding issues that she fails to report, from parental neglect to severe mental and physical abuse of pupils by Trunchbull. I agree with this article that represents miss honey as a powerless woman, unable to break the cycle of abuse and ultimately unable to solve her own problems ( it takes Matilda to address the injustices that she faced). She reinforces the ideal femininity yet her character is encouraging the unrealistic expectation of teacher-pupil relationships ( her being adamant on taking her students with a troubled life into her home)


Although the on-screen portrayal of Miss Trunchbull can make her feel like more of a "man", I believe it would be an oversimplification to state she was portrayed as masculine for the sake of her being intimidating. Delving deeper into her character, we can see her portrayal is open to interpretation and just because she is depicted as an overburdening, intimidating and aggressive symbol devoted to "ruling" over the school with an iron fist. This does not mean she has to be seen as a man to achieve this effect. My experiences with people in positions of authority would lead me to believe that one can be intimidating irrespective of gender. Furthermore, there are several muscular female athletes, and no…

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