James and the Giant Peach: Summary and Character Analysis

One of the world’s greatest storytellers, Roald Dahl was originally a fighter pilot who served in the Royal Air Force during the World War II.

Summary

Roald Dahl’s ‘James and the Giant Peach’ is not the stereotypical ‘comforted-and-reassured’ type of a story, but begins with a fateful accident, which leaves the little protagonist, 4 years old James Henry Trotter, parent-less. After his parents are devoured by rhinoceros, sad and lonely James is sent away to live a wretched life with his despicable aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. James is now compelled to do household chores, unreasonably bashed, mocked, deprived of food, and is not allowed to venture out of the run-down house (this part will remind you of Cinderella), a total opposite of the idyllic life he lived with his parents.

However, James’ life takes a 180 degree turn when he alights upon a mysterious old man who knows everything about his misery induced life. The old man promises to extricate James from the shackles of his wicked aunts should he prepare a magical potion using the contents in the sack. The old man hands over the sack to James in which lie glowing green crocodile tongues. But while hopping on his way back home, James and the sack take a spill, and the crocodile tongues enchant an old peach tree that lies in the yard. This causes one of the peach to grow big, so big that it becomes the size of a house and a tourist attraction on which the cruel aunts cash on by selling tickets.

Things don’t change for good as James had expected until he discovers a fleshy passage way that leads him to the heart of the fruit. There he meets a colorful posse of insects who too are transmogrified with the magic of the tongues and find James’ aunts equally repulsive. Together they plan a mutiny and roll away into the Atlantic ocean and mash the notorious aunts in the process. It is from this point that the characters embark on an odyssey, where they drift into the Atlantic ocean, brave hundreds of sharks with the help of seagulls, put up with hailstorms and snowballs by the Cloud Men, and finally reach the gleaming city of New York where a brighter future awaits them all.

Character Analysis

This fantastical story gets its rich imagery from its amazing characters, let’s take a quick peek into the main characters of the story-

1. James

The hero of the story, James is an orphaned boy who is placed into the custody of his wicked aunts. All James needs in his life are good friends, which he eventually earns as he enters the magical Peach fruit. Clever and resourceful, James is lauded for his ingenuity, which saves him and his insect friends from the many dangers they confronted during their odyssey. On reaching New York, James ultimate dream of having many friends to play gets fulfilled.

2. Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge

Greedy and malicious to the hilt, Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge are James’ wicked aunts who force him to perform menial chores and give him very little to eat. Ugly and repulsive, they both have false notion about their appearance and even eulogize their imagined beauty. However, both Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponger are squashed when the giant peach rolls down over them.

3. The Old Man

Compassionate, friendly and mysterious, the Old Man stirs James fate by giving him a sack of magical crocodile tongues. The Old Man’s benevolence and magic frees James and his friends from the wicked aunts, and leads them into a fantastical journey with the giant peach.

4. The Centipede

Riotous and witty, Centipede (a male centipede) has a heart of gold who assumes a brotherly role towards James. Centipede is also very particular about his boots and often seeks help from others for putting his boots on. It for centipede that James and his other buggly friends escape from the evil clutches of the aunts as he chews off the stem of the peach plant and sets the peach in motion. His loudmouthed nature also gets his friends into trouble.

5. The Earthworm

Blind and pessimistic, Earthworm feels animosity towards the boisterous Centipede. His cynical nature toward life makes him imagine things to be at their worst. He always felt that the giant peach was doomed and all of them were fated to die. Despite his negative outlook, he lends himself as a bait that helps to lure hundreds of seagulls who hoick up the peach from the sea to save James and his friends from sharks.

6. The Old Green Grasshopper

Sophisticated and level-headed, Old Green Grasshopper assumes a fatherly role towards James. He has flair for music and often plays violin with his legs to provide some musical entertainment to others on the peach.

7. The Ladybug

The lady bug is an affable and kind female bug who treats James as if he were her son. Her optimistic disposition makes her a lovable figure and is also seen encouraging others when they feel depressed. Ladybug is proud of her bug spots, as she believes the more number of spots a bug has on its shell the more respect he commands.

8. Miss Spider

Miss Spider assumes the role of James’ aunt, very different from his two horrid aunts. Her scary appearance is misleading as she is not at all that frightening but very loving who cares for James. She along with Silkworm make hammock for others to sleep in.

9. The Silkworm

Dormant and introvert, Silkworm’s silk spinning helped James and other insects on two occasions; first – when she combines her silk with Miss Spider’s strong web to connect the seagulls with the stem of the giant peach so that they could be hoicked up from the sharks. And second time she saves the outspoken Centipede as he falls off the peach.

10. The Glow Worm

Sluggish and always quiet, Glow worm is often hanging from the ceiling of the giant Peaches stone. She is the source of light for the passengers on the peach.

11. Cloud Men

Cloud Men are the wisp-like bad guys of the story who are enraged by James and his friends’ arrival in their realm. They also throw hailstorms and snowballs at the giant peach passengers and also tried to bring the giant peach down by entangling it with rainbow ropes.

Roald Dahl’s mastery in painting the imagination through wondrous characters and use of humorous poetry renders James and the Giant Peach as one of the most delightful read for both children and parents. Get yourself a copy of this much-loved book and find out what happens with James and his friends after they reach New York.

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