The Significance of Imperfect Parents or Guardians The Giver by Lois Lowry and Matilda by Roald Dahl

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer


Child abuse is a topic that is sensitive and causes outrage whenever it is discussed. Some of the major examples of child abuse include physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and neglect. These abuses affect children emotionally, physically and psychologically. Parental neglect is the most commonly reported form of child abuse across the world. In fact, this shows that parental neglect is neither benign nor better than violence but a serious problem that needs to be addressed. The novels, “The Giver’ by Lois Lowry and ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl highlight parental and guardian neglect. The parents in the two novels are not involved in their children’s lives fully, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

The novel, “The Giver”, is about a 12-year-old Jonas, who did not get parental guidance from his parents when growing up, and instead, was raised by The Giver, his mentor. The novel, “Matilda”, is about a genius, five-and-half-year-old girl that did not get parental guidance from her parents even though they were alive, and ended up being raised by Mrs. Honey, her teacher. The paper compares the significance of imperfect parents in the two novels, ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowry and ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl.

No emotional Connection/No Love

Parental or guardian neglect leads to lack of love and emotional connection between the parents or guardian and the child. The parents or guardian do not create time to bond with their children through simple activities such as doing house chores, playing, or going for family trips. In fact, these activities are essential in emotionally connecting the parents and the children, and unfortunately, they are not observed in the two novels. In “The Giver”, Jonas grew up in a society that was physically safe but with no emotions. The family unit was created differently, and also, operated differently from the normal one since a man and a woman had to officially apply to become parents. Then, they were limited to apply for one boy and one girl (Lowry 156). To make it worse, the family unit was temporary, and as soon as the children become adults, the families were disbanded and parents sent to live with the Childless Adults.

The lack of love between the parents is also absent between the parents and the children they apply for. In fact, there is no romance involved in the child rearing since it was more of a duty to society and a business decision. The presence of surveillance within the houses and speaker, which the community Elders spoke to parents and children at any time shows that the community Elders and not the parents majorly did parenting. Therefore, the families in this society lacked the most component, love, because no family member had an emotional attachment to one another.

Conversely, in “Matilda”, Matilda’s parents chose not to connect emotionally with their daughter. For this reason, Matilda did not get the love and emotional support from her neglectful parents for most of her childhood. In fact, her parents are unbothered about their daughter’s life to an extent they forget her age and taking her to school. Matilda is forced to take care of herself and her education at a young age because the parents had no interest in helping her. The parents often left Matilda alone in the house despite her being a toddler. In fact, her mother used to play bingo on a daily basis, leaving the toddler all alone. They did not care and nurture the things Matilda loved to do, such as reading books. The fact the parents were relatively uneducated made it difficult for them to value the significance of the emotional connection between their daughter and them. Also, Mrs. Tunchbull was a bad guardian to her students and Mrs. Honey when she was young. For instance, she verbally and physically abused her students, which made it difficult for the students to love her (Dahl 95). Also, she also tortured Mrs. Honey, stole her inheritance, and treated her as a slave, making it difficult for Mrs. Honey to have an emotional connection with her.


Parental or guardian neglect leads to bullying. The parents often harm the children physically and emotionally. The reason for this is the lack of compassion towards their children. Child bullying can also occur by people not related to the children. This kind of bullying occurs when the parents of the child do not protect their child. This is evident in “The Giver” when Jonas’ father “released” children as required in the community. The term “released” in the novel means killing by injecting a lethal fluid into the child (Lowry 8). Instead of loving new children passionately, and also, fighting for their survival, Jonas’ father released them. In fact, he could not feel the pain of killing helpless children since he could not access deeper feelings of love and sadness due to lack of memory.

Therefore, he did not appreciate the loss of the children since it was not considered a tragedy in the community. Also, the culture of children being assigned careers at the mere age of 12 years showed the emotional trauma children went through (Lowry 65). At this age, the children are still young and cannot manage careers since they are still growing and finding themselves. Furthermore, the children were lashed when they failed to learn. Jonas’ friend, Asher was a 3-year-old boy, who had difficulty in speaking, and he received increasingly intense lashings. The community Elders applauded this act terming it effective since Asher improved his speech altogether.

Similarly, in the novel “Matilda”, Mrs. Wormwood forgets about the welfare of her daughter, forcing Matilda to fend for herself. Mrs. Wormwood plays bingo every afternoon and this game becomes more important than her daughter’s wellbeing. Also, Mrs. Honey asks Matilda, a 4-year-old, to fetch water in the well knowing the risks it can pose to Matilda. In fact, she reminds her to be careful not to fall in the well. This is child bullying since parents or guardians need to take care of their child and give them chores that are less risky and manageable.

Furthermore, Mr. Wormwood verbally attacks her daughter for telling him the truth about his business. She says, ‘But that’s dishonest, daddy,’ Matilda said. ‘It’s cheating.’ ‘No one ever got rich being honest.’ (Dahl 17). He tells Matilda that she is dumb and does not know how to run a business as he does. Also, Principal Trunchbull forces a student to eat the entire cake as a punishment for stealing a piece of it. This kind of punishment is risky for the health of the child since he can choke or vomit at the end. The school had a torture chamber known as “chokey” where students were punished daily for their mistakes. The room had actual spikes that could injure the students; however, both parents or guardians and teachers did not protest such inhumane punishment to their children.

Raised by Outsiders

Both Jonas and Matilda are raised by people outside their families. Parental neglect forces the children to search for other adults willing to take care of them. In fact, it is true that even though it is frustrating for family members not to love one another, there will be someone outside, who will love them. In the novel, “The Giver”, Jonas met a new mentor, who assisted him in being the Giver of the community. The mentor was referred to as The Giver. The Giver acted as caretaker of Jonas, and Jonas saw him as a father. The Giver was different from Jonas’ parents since he listened to Jonas’ problems. In fact, he goes to the extent of accepting to collaborate with him on enlightening the people of the community by giving them back their memories (Lowry 201). He sacrifices to stay back in to guide the people to deal with their memories, which will bring newfound emotions. Also, The Giver answers all the questions that Jonas had patiently as a parent will do.

Similarly, this is evident in the novel “Matilda” where Matilda befriended her class teacher, Mrs. Honey and the librarian, Mrs. Phelps. Matilda was a bright child, who craved for knowledge. For this reason, she asked her parents to allow her read more books, but instead, the parents discouraged her. This is evident when she tells Mrs. Phelps about her mother’s neglect of fostering her intellect (Dahl 10). She found out about a neighboring library, where she went to learn how to read at the age of four years and three months. Mrs. Phelps allows her to borrow books and return them when she is done. In addition, she assists in nurturing her intellect by encouraging her to come every day to read. Also, Mrs. Honey accepts to adopt Matilda as her daughter when her parents were on the run from the law due to her father’s shoddy business. In fact, Matilda’s parents raise no objection when Matilda asks them if she can stay with Mrs. Honey (Dahl 198).


Parental or guardian neglect makes children rebellious, and who do not follow rules and regulations. In this situation, the parents are not often around to ensure the children are growing uprightly. Instead, the children follow their path instead of following the way a family or a community operates. This is evident when Jonas went against his mandate as the community’s Giver to secretly share comforting memories to his younger brother, Gabriel when he could not sleep well at night (Lowry 144). He did this to protect him from being released.

Furthermore, Jonas convinces The Giver to assist him give back memories to the people so that he removes the ignorance and disrespect for human life the society had. In fact, his actions are rebellious, and indeed, the community Elders and his parents would have disagreed with his decisions. Also, Jonas’ kidnaps Gabriel after learning that he will be released due to his difficulty in sleeping well in the nurturing facility. He lies to the parents as he prepares to leave the community and escape with Gabriel.

Similarly, in “Matilda”, Matilda punishes his father for forcing her to eat dinner in the living room. She achieves this by putting superglue around the inside of her father’s favorite hat, which messes up Mr. Wormwood’s hair (Z.A., “The Economist”). In fact, this act proves that children can be as cruel and selfish as the worst adults can if their parents or guardians neglect them. Furthermore, Matilda revenge against her parents after her father destroys her book by ripping out its pages and throwing it in the garbage. The father had found Matilda reading a book she had borrowed from the library in the living room.

She borrows a talking parrot from a friend. The parrot could talk in the house by saying words such as “hello” and “rattle my bones”, thus scaring the parents, who initially thought it was a burglar in the house, but later concluded that the house was haunted. Furthermore, Matilda is rebellious when replaced her father’s hair product with her mother’s hair products. The father ended up having blond hair, which he actually hated.


The implications of imperfect parents in the two novels include no emotional connection, bullying, children being raised by outsiders, and rebellious children. Imperfect parents or guardians mostly neglect their children. In “The Giver”, Jonas was not loved by his parents, and in fact, child rearing was more of a duty and a business decision. Also, Matilda did not connect with her parents emotionally since they were unbothered with her whereabouts. The children in Jonas’ community were killed without any good reason, they were assigned careers at a young age, and they were lashed. Also, Matilda was verbally attacked by being called names such as witch, cheat and twit, given difficult chores, and got severe punishment in school. Jonas was raised and mentored by The Giver, who took him as a son.

Also, Matilda got two allies, Mrs. Phelps who helped get enough books to read, and Mrs. Honey who nurtured her talent and adopted her. Jonas was rebellious by lying to his father, giving back memories to the people, and kidnapping Gabriel. Also, Matilda was rebellious by playing pranks on her parents and teachers, by using superglue, talking parrot, and telekinesis powers. That said, parents need to be active in their children’s lives and mentor them to avoid the implications discussed.


Read more