James and the Giant Peach


Roald Dahl

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James and the Giant Peach: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Everyone runs to the top of the peach. The view is so magnificent that Miss Spider pulls the Centipede into a dance. Even the shy Glow-worm and the quiet Silkworm watch everyone else celebrate on top of the peach. When the excitement dies down, James admits he’s worried about what the sharks might have done to the peach. Miss Spider offers to lower herself over the edge with string to check and leaps off before anyone can object. She returns with a puzzled look on her face—the peach is almost untouched. No one believes her, especially when the Centipede points out that they were sinking.
Because Miss Spider isn’t able to or doesn’t offer to take anyone else with her to confirm her story, they don’t believe her. In their minds, there’s no way they could’ve escaped the sea without suffering major damage from the sharks—but in this case, it’s better for them to just accept that they don’t know what happened or how they made it out unscathed.
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The Old-Green-Grasshopper suggests that they weren’t actually sinking. Maybe they were just so frightened that they thought they were. The narrator says that the Old-Green-Grasshopper is correct. Sharks, the narrator explains, don’t have the type of mouth that allows them to get a bite out of a huge curved surface, like the side of a giant peach. The Ladybug, however, announces that the peach must have healed itself with magic.
The narrator doesn’t fault James and his friends for assuming that the sharks were damaging the peach—but the narrator does imply that fear can make people jump to conclusions all too easily. When the Ladybug suggests that the peach is magical, it also speaks to how the novel encourages readers to suspend their disbelief and appreciate the nonsensical without straining to make everything make sense.
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James shouts that there’s a ship below and everyone runs to look—none of the bugs have seen a ship before. None of the peach’s passengers know that the ship is the Queen Mary, on her way to America. The Captain of the Queen Mary stands on the bridge, staring up at the peach. Neither he nor his officers know what it is, but they don’t like it. One officer wonders if it’s following them and another suggests it’s dangerous. The Captain insists it’s a secret weapon and accepts his telescope from his first officer. With its help, the Captain can see birds and people, including a small boy, on the thing. He can make out a huge grasshopper, a big spider, and an enormous centipede. The officers believe the Captain has been drinking again and call the ship’s doctor. Meanwhile, the peach disappears into a cloud.
It’s telling that the Captain fears the peach is a bomb or a weapon at first. He’s not curious and openminded about it—he jumps to conclusions before he even knows what he’s looking at. Like many adults, he’s no longer especially curious about the world around him. And when he shares what he sees through the telescope, the other officers immediately assume that he’s drunk. Furthermore, that the Captain fears that the peach is a bomb gestures to the tense Cold War climate in which Dahl was writing.
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