James and the Giant Peach


Roald Dahl

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James and the Giant Peach: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

James wakes up when one of his new friends shouts, “We’re off!” Everyone else is already awake and moving around. The floor heaves, and James asks what’s happening. The Ladybug kindly explains that they’re about to leave this desolate hill—and consequently leave Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge behind. She notes that the peach tree is on a hill, and the only thing stopping the peach from rolling down it is its stem, which is starting to break. The Ladybug raises her voice and yells that the Centipede is up on top nibbling at the stem. She offers to take James under her wing to protect him once they start rolling, but James declines. The Centipede emerges from a hole in the ceiling and says they’re off. The Earthworm mutters that they must be headed for trouble, but the Ladybug says they’ll see great things.
By talking to James like this and explaining what’s going on, the Ladybug takes on a maternal role with him. In this sense, she becomes the mother that James hasn’t had for the last three years—and she shows him how an adult should treat a child a how they should act in frightening, unknown situations. The idea that James and his new friends will be able to leave Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker thanks to the hill—and the giant peach—suggests that the natural world has a lot to offer James.
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The Centipede says they could see anything on their journey. He sings that they could see the man-eating Pink-Spotted Scrunch, dragons, or unicorns. It’s possible they’ll see a hen who lays beautiful eggs that, when boiled, blow people’s heads off. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter what they encounter—the important thing is that they get away from Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge. As soon as the Centipede is done singing, the peach begins to roll.
The Centipede’s song speaks to the unpredictability of life. It’s impossible to know and predict everything—but it’s precisely this sense of possibility that makes life so exciting. Everything he lists is absurd and silly, which supports the novel’s larger point that life itself is absurd and unpredictable.
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