James and the Giant Peach


Roald Dahl

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James and the Giant Peach: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Within moments, Miss Spider creates the first bed with her thread. It hangs from the ceiling like a hammock, but it’s silky and luxurious. The Old-Green-Grasshopper crawls in. Next, Miss Spider makes beds for the Ladybug, the Centipede, and the Earthworm. Then, she turns to James and asks how soft he’d like his bed. James says he likes a very soft bed and then returns to the Centipede’s boots. The laces are tied in complicated knots and the whole process of untying them takes about two hours. By the time James is done, the Centipede is fast asleep. James pokes the Centipede in the stomach and sends him to bed. When James crawls into his own hammock, it’s soft and comfortable.
Miss Spider continues to defy James’ expectations as she turns to making beds for all her friends—while James previously thought she was scary and assumed she wanted to eat him, here she shows that she’s thoughtful, gentle, and even maternal as she essentially tucks everyone into bed. When the Centipede falls asleep while James is taking his boots off, it suggests that no matter how adult the Centipede may seem, he might not be as competent as James assumed. And, like a child, he falls asleep before making it to bed—while James has to assume an adult role to get him out of his boots.
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The Centipede says, “Lights out,” but nothing happens. He says it again, louder. James is confused. He looks around and sees the Old-Green-Grasshopper, the Ladybug, Miss Spider, and the Earthworm snoring. James asks if the Centipede is talking to him, but the Centipede snaps that the Glow-worm fell asleep with her light on. James looks up and sees a three-foot-long fly without wings, standing upside-down on the ceiling. Its tail end lights up the room. James comments that it doesn’t look like a worm and the Centipede says he’s right: Glow-worms aren’t worms, they’re just wingless, female fireflies. He hurls a boot at the Glow-worm, who tells the Centipede to be polite. She greets James and turns off her light. James listens to the others breathe and wonders what will happen in the morning. He likes his new friends—none of them are frightening. They seem kind and helpful.
Even though James describes his new friends as kind and helpful, that becomes questionable in light of the Centipede’s violent behavior toward the Glow-worm. The Glow-worm’s polite scolding of the Centipede makes the Centipede look even more immature and less like a competent, kind adult. And the Centipede confirms for James that not everything looks like James thinks it should. The Glow-worm defies all expectations and, through this, encourages James to keep an open mind when he encounters new things.
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