James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant Peach Summary and Analysis of Ch. 11 - 15

In Chapter 11, James becomes acquainted with the creatures who had startled him at the end of Chapter 10. As he gazes around the interior of the peach, he sees a collection of insects: a grasshopper, spider, ladybug, centipede, and an earthworm. But were they really insects? James had thought insects were small, but these insects are very large - the grasshopper alone is as large as a large dog.

As James regards them with fright, the creatures begin to discuss how hungry they are. They seem to focus ominously on James. They ask him if he is hungry, but he is too scared to offer a response. Suddenly, the creatures realize that James is afraid that they want to eat him. They laugh uproariously at the idea, assuring James that he is one of them now and that they've been waiting for him all day.

In Chapter 12, James lends assistance to one of his new acquaintances; he helps the Centipede remove his boots before bed. The Centipede tells James that they will have to remove 100 shoes, but the others creatures, particularly the Earthworm, insist that the Centipede is constantly lying and only has 42 legs. As James helps remove the boots, he listens to the creatures bicker with one another. The Earthworm believes that no legs is a superior mode of life, while the Centipede insists that more legs are better; this one creature is also very proud of the fact that he is a pest. The Old-Green-Grasshopper tries to moderate the conversation, telling the others to calm down. Throughout all of this, James concludes he likes the good-humored Centipede, despite the Centipede's demanding ways; it is very nice to hear laughter after so many years of life under Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker.

The Centipede then begins to tell James the story of how he became such a marvelously large centipede. He was going about his business in the garden under the peach tree, when suddenly a little green thing wiggled past his nose. Other insects - the Ladybug, Miss Spider, and the Old-Green-Grasshopper - also claim that they saw the same thing, and James exclaims that he knows what it was: the magic items. The creatures all say that they ate one, two, or three of the green creatures, and as they are about to complete the story, the Old-Green-Grasshopper urges them to get ready for bed because they have a long day ahead of them the next day.

In Chapter 13, Miss Spider gets to work preparing beds for everyone, which she accomplishes by spinning hammocks out of silk. James continues to work on Centipede's boots for two hours, and by the time he finishes Centipede has fallen asleep. James must wake the Centipede up so that he, the Centipede, can go to bed in his hammock. As James settles down in his comfortable sleeping position, the Centipede yells "Lights out!" to an unnamed person. James looks up and sees that The Centipede is addressing a Glow-worm, who is attached to the ceiling and has fallen asleep with her light on. Centipede rudely wakes her, and she turns off her light. As James prepares to go to bed, he realizes how much he likes his new friends. They are not as terrible as they had once looked, and they are actually incredibly kind and helpful.

James wakes to a series of shouts proclaiming, "We're off!" at the start of Chapter 14. All of the creatures are moving around excitedly, and it seems as if there were an earthquake taking place. The Ladybug, a kind and gentle creature, explains to James that they are about to depart forever from the hillside where Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker live. The Centipede is even on top of the peach, using his sharp jaws to cut away the stem attaching the peach to the tree in the garden - even though no one knows exactly where the peach will go once released. Soon the peach is free and begins rolling down the hill, and the furniture, creatures, and James are all slammed against the walls by the momentum.

In Chapter 15, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker are preparing for the next batch of tourists who have come to see the peach. After a brief discussion about where James went last night - both of them hoping that James was seriously injured during his night away from the house - the two women discuss how they are going to make a fortune. Suddenly they hear an alarming sound. It's the peach! It is rolling down the hill, quickly gathering speed, and the two aunts try desperately to get out of its way. Yet Aunt Sponge trips over the box she brought to collect the money, and Aunt Spiker trips over Aunt Sponge. Before they can get up, the peach rolls over them and with a crunch, both of James' aunts are laid out lifeless on the hillside.


As James becomes acquainted with the odd figures inside the peach, the novel teaches an important lesson about perceptions and assumptions. All of the figures, despite their quirks, are kind and funny individuals who do not deserve to be judged for their odd appearances. Despite the fact that James was initially frightened by the creatures and believed they wanted to eat him, he soon learned to look beyond their looks and truly get to know them. This aspect of the novel even relates to daily life; the reader is tacitly urged to not judge and dismiss the people around him or her, but rather get to know people for who they really are.

The creatures in the peach also symbolize the gaps in James's life and begin to fill those gaps. They have all been "anthropomorphized" (that is, given human characteristics despite their non-human identities), and the reader eventually thinks of these creatures as types of people rather than as insects found in the ground. The Centipede is outlandish and provocative, but his jokes and personality make James laugh. He represents the kind of friend that James lacked during his time with Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. The Ladybug and Miss Spider are both kind females who try to rectify the fact that James has not had a mother figure in his life for some time. Finally, in this set of chapters, the Old-Green-Grasshopper becomes a wise father figure for James. He is calm, orderly, and in control of the situation within the peach. Most importantly, all of these creatures care for James - something he hasn't experienced since his parents died.

Personality types continue to be crucial to these chapters in the case of Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge: most importantly, their death is brought on by their most negative attributes. Had they not been so preoccupied with making a fortune from the peach, they would not have been standing in front of it so early in the morning. They fought so hard to save themselves, each one thinking only of herself, that they tripped each other and ultimately met a common demise. The box meant to hold the profits from the day symbolizes their greed, and it is fitting that two extremely greedy individuals were killed directly by this vice - Aunt Sponge, after all, trips over a money box.

The death of James's aunts reiterates a common theme of the novel - sudden death. Although James's aunts are certainly two unsavory figures (and may seem to deserve long, drawn-out punishment), Dahl deals with their deaths in an incredibly quick manner. This is similar to the death of James's parents, whose death was described in a mere sentence despite their positive relationship with James. All of these deaths reinforce the dark, random, even dreamlike nature of Dahl's often lighthearted children's novel.

As James and the giant peach depart from the hillside, the excitement of new destinations and the hope for a new life are both overwhelming. James had periodically gazed out from the garden and seen his old house, which he associated with happy memories, and now there is the chance to create new happy memories. Also, the fact that the peach broke through the wicked aunts' fence symbolizes the end of James's tenure with his cruel relatives. Physically, nothing is keeping him on his aunts' property any longer. He is free to explore new realms with his new companions in life.