Matilda

Matilda is a story written by the famous British writer, flying ace and intelligence officer Roald Dahl and made into a movie (released 1996) by Danny DeVito.

On the surface it is a simple fantasy of good overcoming evil. But considering its genesis and content, I give it more credit than that. It falls into a long line of stories about beings with supernatural powers overcoming villains who also seem to have supernatural powers. These stories include the stories of Krishna and all his struggles against his enemies, the comic book super hero stories, and many others.

In this story, a little girl is the super hero. In order to make an ordinary little girl into a being with supernatural powers, she is given parents who barely took care of her (her father is a dishonest businessman) and thus she is free to take care of herself. She begins reading at an early age, and by the time of the story is totally literate, has impeccable manners, and has begun to discover her “powers.”

The villain is the headmistress at a private school. She is almost pure evil, but manages to restrain herself from killing anyone – except maybe once. And it is on that one foul deed that the plot of the story hinges. The whole school lives in fear of this woman, so when she is finally exposed and runs away, the school blossoms, as do the lives of all involved, including that of Matilda and her teacher (only daughter of the man murdered by the evil woman).

With a plot this thick, one need not strain over much to draw parallels.

Dahl himself was simply a well-read man, and a person familiar with the pains and perils of war, and perhaps some of its underlying causes. He also had personal clashes with sadistic school personnel when he was a child.

DeVito is very active in the entertainment industry, seems to have a somewhat independent position in the industry, and apparently is a traditional liberal and a supporter of peace efforts in the Middle East. In addition to that, all his children knew this story, and it was partly because of them that he wanted to make it into a movie. It is also because of this that Dahl’s story was not watered down for the screen. Thus, his vision shines through, even though the movie story happens in a place like Los Angeles (or Las Vegas) while the original story is set somewhere in England.

Are special abilities required to vanquish evil?

My short answer is “yes.” You could say, to be simplistic, that special abilities were required to create evil, and so are also required to undo it.

The hero of this story, in addition to her intellect and her ability to control objects with her thoughts (or intention), has a perfect sense of ethics and is always honest with other people. It is quite possible, in fact, that she could have vanquished her opponent without supernatural powers. These powers, however, gave her the courage to try.

If you are no good at bending spoons using your mind, I strongly suggest that you work hard on developing the other abilities demonstrated by this little girl. You never know: With those abilities strengthened, much more may become possible. And I have that on very good authority.

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