James and the Giant Peach

by

Roald Dahl

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on James and the Giant Peach can help.

James and the Giant Peach: Chapter 37 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After a few minutes, people below realize that whatever fell wasn’t a bomb. They pour out of their hiding places to stare at the Empire State Building. Some think the thing on it is a flying saucer containing aliens. Firemen and police officers, with guns at the ready, take the elevators up the building and gather on the observation deck right below the spike. From this vantage point, they can’t see anyone on the peach. The Chief of Police shouts for the travelers to show themselves, so the Centipede sticks his head over the edge and grins. Policemen and firefighters believe the creature is a Wampus, a Snozzwanger, or a Prock. The Centipede seems to be enjoying himself. When the Chief of Police asks where he came from, the Centipede says they traveled thousands of miles.
In the first responders’ reactions to the peach and the Centipede, the novel drives home how absurd it is to make assumptions about new things and new people. It never occurs to the first responders, for instance, to ask the Centipede who or what he is—instead, they make themselves look silly by suggesting he’s a Snozzwanger (one of Dahl’s many made-up creatures). The belief that the peach is an alien spaceship reads as similarly absurd and wildly off base. However, the Centipede encourages readers to notice just how silly all of this is by grinning and enjoying the confusion.
Themes
Assumptions vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
Fun, Nonsense, and Absurdity Theme Icon
The Old-Green-Grasshopper sticks his head over the edge too. Six men faint when they see him, while others shout that he’s an Oinck or a Cockatrice. Neither the Centipede nor the Old-Green-Grasshopper know why the first responders are so upset. When Miss Spider joins them at the edge, the head of the fire department blanches. Miss Spider asks for help down, but the first responders are afraid the bugs have “space guns.” They agree to put up a ladder as all seven bugs on board the peach arrive at the edge to look over. The panic stops suddenly when James appears next to his friends.
Now, the Old-Green-Grasshopper and Miss Spider join the Centipede in making the first responders look even sillier. To the bugs, their existence is normal—so it’s unclear why the first responders are so shocked. And it’s especially telling that the first responders still have a hard time after Miss Spider asks politely for help. They assume she’s evil, even when she shows she clearly isn’t, which points back to her earlier lamentation that people always assume the worst of spiders.
Themes
Assumptions vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
Fun, Nonsense, and Absurdity Theme Icon
James waves happily at the first responders, laughs, and asks that they not be frightened. He says that his friends aren’t dangerous and, breaking into song, he introduces the Centipede, the Earthworm, the Old-Green-Grasshopper, the Glow-worm, Miss Spider, the Ladybug, and the Silkworm. As he introduces each bug, James shares something good that they do. He mentions that the Earthworm helps farmers, while Miss Spider has never met or frightened Miss Muffet. James also insists it’s bad to kill spiders. When James is done, the first responders agree that it’s time to get the newcomers down from the peach immediately.
Now that James is more of an adult himself, he’s better able to connect with the adult first responders and introduce them to his new friends. Through his song, James shows the first responders how wrong they were to make assumptions about the bugs—the bugs are, according to James’s song, all upstanding, helpful beings. James’s success in convincing everyone that they mean no harm suggests that anyone can learn to be more open, no matter how old they are.
Themes
Children vs. Adults Theme Icon
Assumptions vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
Nature and Growing Up Theme Icon
Related Quotes