James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant Peach Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does James change over the course of the novel?

    The answer to this question needs to address James's acquisition of personal confidence and self-esteem. The answer should also discuss James's newfound friends and the supportive relationships these friends help him establish, which enable this change. Finally, the answer should address James's renewed happiness and the sense of purpose that he finds when he lands in New York.

  2. 2

    What is the role of magic in the novel?

    The answer to this question should address the fact that magic is essential to Dahl's entire story, since James's adventure begins with the magical green objects. Magic continues throughout the story when the characters encounter new obstacles on their journey in the peach; it is possible to take the Cloud-Men as a magical or mythological aspect of Dahl's universe. Lastly, the extreme good luck that James and his companions face could be interpreted as a kind of "magic," since close escapes and peacefully happy endings are very common in fairy tales.

  3. 3

    How does Dahl use anthropomorphism in this novel?

    "Anthropomorphism" (a technique where non-human creatures or objects are made into human-like characters) is key to James and the Giant Peach. While at first it is alarming that James has befriended a group of enlarged insects, by the end of the story the identities of these giant bugs do not seem strange at all. Dahl gives each of the insects distinct human hobbies, talents, and emotions, and even gives each one a successful role in human society in New York.

  4. 4

    What is most important about Dahl's depiction of the antagonists, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker?

    This essay should address the personalities of the aunts, starting with their revolting yet radically different physical appearances. In addition, an effective response should discuss the aunts' uniformly poor treatment of James, particularly how they abuse their position of power over him. (Note, however, that their treatment of James does vary: sometimes they lock him up, sometimes they force him to perform difficult tasks.) Finally, the answer should address the aunts' demise and why the protagonists see this as a victory or turning point.

  5. 5

    Discuss three reasons why this book may have been banned in the past.

    Because James and the Giant Peach has been banned historically, it is important to think about the exact thematic issues that have caused such a response. Issues that the answer may address are: death, profanity, racism, sexual references, disobedience, warfare, and rebellion. While a few of these issues are discussed explicitly (for instance, warfare and the perception of the peach as a "bomb"), others (particularly sexuality and racism) require quite a bit of reading between the lines.

  6. 6

    What aspects of the story explain the structure of the world?

    This answer should address the Cloud-Men. Dahl explains the creation of hail, lightning, rain, rainbows, and many other natural phenomena through these strange cloud-dwellers. Additionally, there are some minor stories about the spots on a ladybug or the uses of certain insects in everyday life that could be mentioned in the answer. In all of these cases, Dahl combines his narrative with descriptions of how the world as we know it is arranged and ordered.

  7. 7

    How does the ending of the novel contrast with the beginning of the novel?

    This essay needs to address the grim beginnings of the novel. At first, nothing seems to go right for James; however, as he gains confidence and self-esteem he becomes a very different person. The end of the novel is remarkably different from the beginning, the primary reason being that the characters all manage to live happily ever despite the depressing early stages.

  8. 8

    What is the role of song in the book?

    Four characters sing in the book: Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker (together), Centipede, and James. Centipede sings the most, and he often uses song to fill in information about himself or to explain the current situation on the peach. The rhyming scheme of the songs differs depending on the mood, though a few different ones follow an A-A-B-B-A scheme (or some variation of this) in each stanza. Best when read aloud, the songs in the novel are creative devices that simultaneously emphasize key themes and move the plot along.

  9. 9

    What role does fear play in the book?

    This essay question should address how fear affects perception, and should employ examples such as James's first meeting with the peach creatures and the New Yorkers' first reactions to the peach and its passengers. Also, the essay should discuss how fear was vital to James' personal development. If he hadn't been able to overcome his fears on the journey across the Atlantic, he would not have developed such intense self-confidence.

  10. 10

    The characters who accompany James on the peach all have their own personalities. Pick three characters and describe their personalities.

    Please see the character list for the important characteristics of each of James's friends. Try to focus on the characteristics that relate to each character's larger role and importance in the plot. For example, Centipede is a very energetic and impulsive character; his wild behavior often creates new dilemmas for the inhabitants of the peach, and thus moves the plot toward new conflicts and altercations.