Poor James, on the other hand, was still very much alive, and all at once he found himself alone and frightened in a vast unfriendly world. The lovely house by the seaside had to be sold immediately, and the little boy, carrying nothing but a small suitcase containing a pair of pajamas and a toothbrush, was sent away to live with his two aunts.
This quote is the part of the first description of James, and it automatically sets him up as a pathetic character who attracts the sympathy of the reader. The quote also foreshadows major themes of the novel, such as friendship and abandonment. James is all alone at this point in his young life, and he is almost entirely destitute - he has nothing to his name but pajamas and a toothbrush. The quick transition from living a happy life with his two parents to having nothing and living a miserable life with his two cruel aunts indicates the speed with which bad things can happen to good people, an awareness on Dahl's part of how unfair and absurd life can be.
After James Henry Trotter had been living with his aunts for three whole years there came a morning when something rather peculiar happened to him. And this thing, which as I say was only rather peculiar, soon caused a second thing to happen which was very peculiar. And then the very peculiar thing, in its own turn, caused a really fantastically peculiar thing to occur.
Dahl foreshadows the upcoming meeting with the Old Man and the unexpected growth of the peach in this passage. Rather than calling these events magical, the narrator uses the word "peculiar" and builds upon it with modifiers to create suspense for what is about to happen. Although there is an air of suspense here, there is also a sense of comic understatement: "peculiar" is a bit light of a word to describe a band of talking, human-sized insects and a peach the size of a house.
At this point, James slowly put down his chopper and turned and looked across at the two women, who were standing underneath the peach tree. Something is about to happen, he told himself. Something peculiar is about to happen at any moment. He hadn't the faintest idea what it might be, but he could feel it in his bones that something was going to happen soon. He could feel it in the air around him...in the sudden stillness that had fallen upon the garden...
This is an exemplary quote describing the hope that James is able to maintain despite the horrible living conditions instituted by his aunts. James wishes and wishes that things will get better, and his belief in the impossible helps him to escape, if only in mind, from his dreary surroundings. Without his belief in the magical qualities of the peach, James would not have chosen to explore the giant fruit late at night. In addition, this passage shows how Dahl builds tension in his writing. James becomes more certain about the possibility of something peculiar happening as the passage develops, and the reader becomes increasingly concerned with figuring out what peculiar thing is about to happen.
"My dear Sponge," Aunt Spiker said slowly, winking at her sister and smiling a sly, thin-lipped smile. "There's a pile of money to be made out of this if only we can handle it right. You wait and see."
This quote indicates the greed of Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge, who can only see the peach as a money-making venture. Their interaction with the peach, and their inability to relate to James's sensitivity and imagination, further solidifies their position as the antagonists of the story. Yet the aunts' obsession with wealth and self-advancement is eventually their downfall, and they are killed by the very thing that they had hoped would make them affluent.
"But you won't have to swim," said James calmly. "We are floating beautifully. And sooner or later a ship is bound to come along and pick us up."
This is the first instance of James' excellent reasoning skills while on the journey. The peach has just landed in the Atlantic Ocean, and almost everyone in a panic, convinced they are about to sink into the sea. James assures his comrades them that they do not need to worry because the peach is floating. From this point forward, the various creatures turn to James for advice and assistance whenever there is a problem. This scene is also a key moment in the story because it is the first time that James asserts himself within the group, establishing himself as the eventual leader onboard the peach.
"There's birds everywhere!" he cried. "The whole sky is teeming with birds! What in the world are they doing? And wait! Wait a second! There are people on it! I can see them moving! There's a - a -do I have this darned thing focused right? It looks like a little boy in short trousers!"
In this quote, the Captain of the boat sailing below the peach focuses on the peach with his telescope and begins telling his crew what he sees. When he claims that he sees a boy in trousers on the peach, his crew calls for the doctor and diagnoses him as insane. For these individuals, there is a profound inability to believe in the impossible. Instead of considering that the Captain could be telling the truth, they decide that the Captain must not be feeling well and call for medical attention. Adults, represented here by the crew, are much more likely to dismiss than to believe, even when the most outlandish explanations are the right ones.
There was about a mile of string to be hauled in, but they all worked like mad, and in the end, over the side of the peach, there appeared a dripping-wet James with a dripping-wet Centipede clinging to him tightly with all forty-two of his legs.
This quotation appears just after James jumps off of the peach in order to save Centipede, who has fallen off while dancing along the edge. James is the hero of the story, but his actions would not have been possible without the teamwork and collaboration of his companions. James needs Silkworm to quickly spin a rope for him, and he needs everyone to help pull the rope back up to the top of the peach once Centipede is found. Success, here, depends both on James's initiative and on a collective effort.
The Cloud-Men were all standing in a group, and they were doing something peculiar with their hands. First, they would reach out (all of them at once) and grab handfuls of could. Then they would roll these handfuls of cloud in their fingers until they turned into what looked like white large marbles.
This is James and his friends' first encounter with the Cloud-Men. The passage is an important instance of Dahl's use of the Cloud-Men as origin-story figures: they are used to explain natural weather phenomena such as hail. While the Cloud-Men are minor antagonists in the story, their presence also enriches Dahl's fantasy world and enables lavish explanations of the different types of weather that occur in everyday life.
The children jumped up onto the truck and swarmed like ants all over the giant peach, eating and eating to their hearts' content. And as the news of what was happening spread quickly from street to street, more and more boys and girls came running from all directions to join the feast. Soon, there was a trail of children a mile long chasing after the peach as it proceeded slowly up Fifth Avenue. Really, it was a fantastic sight. To some people it looked as though the Pied Piper of Hamelin had suddenly descended upon New York. And to James, who had never dreamed that there could be so many children as this in the world, it was the most marvelous thing that had ever happened.
At the end of the story, James's desire to be surrounded by other children is finally fulfilled, and he is able to make friends through his generous spirit. When a young girl asks to have a taste of his precious peach, he encourages her and anyone else who would like to eat the peach to come up and take a bite. Upon hearing this news, thousands of children chase after James and his peach. James is incredibly happy to simply be surrounded by so many children, and this quote sets the stage for James's happily-ever-after ending.
And James Henry Trotter, who once, if you remember, had been the saddest and loneliest little boy that you could find, now had all the friends and playmates in the world. And because so many of them were always begging him to tell and tell again the story of his adventures on the peach, he thought it would be nice if one day he sat down and wrote a book. So he did. And that is what you have just finished reading.
The final quote of the book resolves James's future and ensures that he will live happily ever after. Despite his harsh childhood and frequent loneliness, James has now has friends and never has to worry about being alone, a major fear at the beginning of the novel. Beyond this, the quote provides a sense of closure. James and the Giant Peach is a story within a story - James has written a book that describes his life of adventure in its totality, and the reader has just read the story that he has written.
James and the Giant Peach Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for James and the Giant Peach is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.