James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant Peach Summary and Analysis of Ch. 31 - 35

At the beginning of Chapter 31, Ladybug realizes that the seagulls have started to fly faster and faster. They are moving quickly through the air, and as the peach pursues its course, James and his companions are exposed to more of the Cloud-Men's realm. They see where the Cloud-Men eat, sleep, play, and conduct their family lives. James and his companions also learn more about how the Cloud-Men orchestrate specific natural phenomena, such as cyclones, tornadoes, and blizzards.

Chapter 32 brings the dawn, and Centipede shouts that he sees land below. The passengers all peer over the side of the peach and look down at the world below, commenting on how enormous it all seems. The cars look like ants, and giant buildings are visible. Based off of their previous experiences, the passengers don't believe that they are looking at England. When James sees a skyscraper, he shouts that they must be in America - they have crossed the Atlantic Ocean overnight!

James and his friends then start to think about how they will make their way back down to earth. James has the idea of gradually cutting the seagull strings that have kept the peach in the air. He believes that if the strings are cut one-by-one, there will be a calm and controlled descent to the ground.

In Chapter 33, pandemonium begins to break out down below, in New York City. The people believe that the hovering peach is the biggest bomb in the history of the world, and they think it's poised to explode at any given moment. The mayor of New York calls the President of the United States, who summons his admirals and generals. Across the nation, everyone becomes worried that death is near.

Back up above, James instructs Centipede to cut one of the strings attached to the seagulls, which Centipede does at the start of Chapter 34. Centipede then moves along from string to string, but the peach doesn't seem to be sinking much. Although the other passengers are confused, James reminds them that they had lost a lot of juice during the hailstone attack earlier in the night - now the giant fruit is much lighter. When the peach begins sinking at a slow, gradual pace, James instructs Centipede to stop.

The companions are all content with their plan to reach the ground, when all of a sudden an airplane makes a tremendous zooming noise above them. They look up and realize that the airplane has cut through the remaining seagull ropes, and suddenly the peach is falling at an alarming rate. The creatures begin to panic, and everyone turns to James for help, but this time James has no answers. He only tells his friends to shut their eyes and wait for the inevitable - death.

In the very brief Chapter 35, the peach is plummeting to the earth. James and his friends cling frantically to the peach, convinced that they are doomed. They believe that the peach will splatter on the ground and explode instantly. From below, the people of New York City are shocked to see the biggest bomb in the world fall out of the sky. In their fright and terror, many of the pedestrians begin to pray.


Not only is there an evident "origins story" aspect of the narrative in Cloud-Men, but there are also strong instances of personification and anthropomorphism. The peach passengers learn both about the natural phenomena that the Cloud-Men create and about the family life of these cloud-dwellers. They see the Cloud-Man city and the Cloud-Man wives cooking food and caring for children. Like the giant insects onboard the peach, these huge wispy creatures are given human characteristics, human loyalties, and human habits.

This set of chapters also addresses a real society: America, or at least the British image of America. Here, we have the first time that America is mentioned in Dahl's novel. America is seen as incredibly large - a place of excess and wealth, as well as a the site of the technological and economic innovations that led to such enormity. When the passengers see the skyscrapers, they immediately know that they are no longer in England. At the time when James and the Giant Peach was written, skyscrapers were very much a unique part of American culture, rather than an element of a broader cosmopolitan culture.

Dahl's use of extreme language recurs in this group of chapters. When the peach is floating over New York City, everyone is convinced that it is the BIGGEST bomb in the history of the world, and the potential consequences of the threat are enormous. The danger level is so high that the Mayor immediately contacts the President, who immediately alerts all of his most important officials. The stakes are high, and Dahl's quick, frenzied references to some of the highest-ranking men in American reflects just this.

Moreover, Chapter 34 clearly contains the supreme climax of the story. James and his friends have faced fearsome challenges earlier in the plot, but James or another member of the group typically thinks up solutions rather quickly. This time, there is no obvious solution, and James is at a loss for possible fixes. For the first time in the novel, James can only urge his friends to shut their eyes and wait for the catastrophic "splat!" This is a tense moment and no one on the peach can come up with a careful, logical resolution.

Chapter 35 extends this climactic moment and creates a mirrored situation. From both the perspective of the peach's inhabitants and the perspective of the people in New York, catastrophe is inevitable. Both groups are preparing for the worst; both lack understanding about what is going to occur. And both parties are probably hoping against hope for the best possible outcome, even though they are not sure what that outcome will look like.