Miss Wormwood is Calvin's elderly world-weary teacher, named after the apprentice devil in C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. She perpetually wears polka-dotted dresses, and is another character who serves as a foil to Calvin's mischief. As Spaceman Spiff, Calvin sees Miss Wormwood as a monstrous alien, and as Stupendous Man, she is seen as the arch-nemesis 'Crab Teacher.'
Although there is a definite progression of time in the Calvin and Hobbes universe, mainly exhibited by the changing seasons, Calvin (and Susie) return to Miss Wormwood's first-grade class every fall.
Miss Wormwood appeared very early in the strip, as the first-grade teacher at Calvin's school. She was not named in her first appearance, and had limited appearances early on. However, she began appearing more often as Calvin's school life was further investigated.
AppearanceMiss Wormwood almost invariably wears a polka-dotted dress and seems overweight. She has grey hair and wears glasses. More so than the majority of characters, Miss Wormwood evolved quite noticeably as Watterson's drawing style progressed. As the strip evolved, her surplus weight became more apparent, her glasses shrank and her jaw became more angular. Miss Wormwood generally has a downcast or upset look on her face, mainly from dealing with Calvin.
Miss Wormwood is rarely sympathetic to the trouble Calvin has at school, and comes across as a rather strict, sour character. She is quick to send Calvin to the principal's office at the first sign of trouble. Weary and even depressed, she may be also a heavy smoker ("Two packs a day. Unfiltered." according to Calvin), mixes different medications, drinks Maalox straight from the bottle, and impatiently yearns for retirement. She never mentions any family (possibly because she has none, considering the title "Miss" by which everyone refers to her).
However, on a few rare occasions Miss Wormwood has actually shown sympathy to Calvin. When she mistakenly thought that Susie was bothering Calvin, she made Susie sit at the front of the class, even though Calvin was the one bothering Susie to help him with his insect collection. On another occasion, Calvin had a fit after realizing that he was trapped inside on a beautiful day. Instead of punishing Calvin, Miss Wormwood gently led him back to his seat and advised him to take a drink of water and a few deep breaths.
Watterson is quoted as saying: "Miss Wormwood believes in the value of education--so needless to say, she's an unhappy person."
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