The titular giant peach symbolizes how the natural world helps children grow and come of age. Before the magical peach begins to grow, James is miserable. His aunts are exceedingly cruel to him and don’t allow him to explore nature or make friends—two things the novel suggests are critical to a child’s development—so James leads a lonely, boring existence.
So when James finds that the peach has grown as big as a house—and is filled with friendly bugs—it becomes the living embodiment of James’s desire to exist in nature and to make friends. The peach also offers James a world far away from the oppressive Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker; when the heavy peach loosens from the tree and rolls down the hill, it fatally flattens the evil aunts, consequently giving James the freedom and agency to play, experiment, and learn on his own.
The peach is also where James begins to sharpen his critical thinking skills and creative problem-solving abilities, which are also critical to the coming-of-age process. Living inside a giant peach presents a set of unique challenges—for instance, when the peach plunges into the ocean, sharks attempt to eat the fruit’s soft flesh, thereby threatening its passengers’ safety. As James comes up with increasingly outlandish ways to save the peach from destruction, he gains confidence and skills that propel him toward adulthood. By the time James lands in New York City, he has symbolically come of age. He signals his maturity by writing down the story of his journey across the Atlantic—his hope is that his story about the peach will consequently help other children as they come of age, too.
The Peach Quotes in James and the Giant Peach
“It’s ripe!” she cried. “It’s just perfect! Now see here, Spiker. Why don’t we go and get us a shovel right away and dig out a great big hunk of it for you and me to eat?”
“No,” Aunt Spiker said. “Not yet.”
“Because I say so.”
“But I can’t wait to eat some!” Aunt Sponge cried out. She was watering at the mouth now and thin trickle of spit was running down one side of her chin.
“My dear Sponge,” Aunt Spiker said slowly, winking at her sister and smiling a sly, thin-lipped smile. “There’s a pile of money to be made out of this if only we can handle it right. You wait and see.”
They panicked. They both got in each other’s way. They began pushing and jostling, and each of them was thinking only about saving herself. Aunt Sponge, the fat one, tripped over a box that she’d brought along to keep the money in, and fell flat on her face. Aunt Spiker immediately tripped over Aunt Sponge and came down on top of her. They both lay on the ground, fighting and clawing and yelling and struggling frantically to get up again, but before they could do this, the mighty peach was upon them.
“None of us three girls can swim a single stroke.”
“But you won’t have to swim,” said James calmly. “We are floating beautifully. And sooner or later a ship is bound to come along and pick us up.”
They all stared at him in amazement.
“Are you quite sure that we are not sinking?” the Ladybug asked.
“Of course I’m sure,” answered James.
“You must be crazy! You can’t eat the ship! It’s the only thing that is keeping us up!”
“We shall starve to death if we don’t!” said the Centipede.
“And we shall drown if we do!” cried the Earthworm.
“You can eat all you want,” James answered. It would take us weeks and weeks to make any sort of a dent in this enormous peach. Surely you can see that?”
“Good heavens, he’s right again!” cried the Old-Green-Grasshopper, clapping his hands.
“For dinner on my birthday I shall tell you what I choose:
Hot noodles made from poodles on a slice of garden hose—
And a rather smelly jelly
Made of armadillo’s toes.
(The jelly is delicious, but you have to hold your nose.)”
“Why, it’s absolutely brilliant!” cried the Old-Green-Grasshopper when James had explained his plan.
“The boy’s a genius!” the Centipede announced. “Now I can keep my boots on after all.”
“Oh, I shall be pecked to death!” wailed the poor Earthworm.
“Of course you won’t.”
“I will, I know I will! And I won’t even be able to see them coming at me because I have no eyes!”
James went over and put an arm gently around the Earthworm’s shoulders. “I won’t let them touch you,” he said. “I promise I won’t.”
“Action stations!” James shouted. “Jump to it! There’s not a moment to lose!” He was the captain now, and everyone knew it. They would do whatever he told them.
“That’s it!!” cried the Captain. “It’s a secret weapon! Holy cats! Send a message to the Queen at once! The country must be warned! And give me my telescope.”
There was not a sound anywhere. Traveling upon the peach was not in the least like traveling in an airplane. The airplane comes clattering and roaring through the sky, and whatever might be lurking secretly up there in the great cloud-mountains goes running for cover at its approach. That is why people who travel in airplanes never see anything.
But the peach...ah, yes...the peach was a soft, stealthy traveler, making no noise as it floated along. And several times during that long silent night ride high up over the middle of the ocean in the moonlight, James and his friends saw things that no one had ever seen before.
“Those are skyscrapers! So this must be America! And that, my friends, means that we have crossed the Atlantic Ocean overnight!”
“You don’t mean it!” they cried.
“It’s not possible!”
“It’s incredible! It’s unbelievable!”
“Oh, I’ve always dreamed of going to America!” cried the Centipede. “I had a friend once who—“
“Be quiet!” said the Earthworm. Who cares about your friend? The thing we’ve got to think about now is how on earth are we going to get down to earth?”
“Ask James,” said the Ladybug.
Far below them, in the City of New York, something like pandemonium was breaking out. A great round ball as big as a house had been sighted hovering high up in the sky over the very center of Manhattan, and the cry had gone up that it was an enormous bomb sent over by another country to blow the whole city to smithereens.
And because so many of them were always begging him to tell and tell again the story of his adventures on the peach, he thought it would be nice if one day he sat down and wrote a book.
So he did.
And that is what you have just finished reading.