Peter Pan By J.M. Barrie

(Peter Pan Series)

Peter Pan, the book based on J.M. Barrie's famous play, is filled with unforgettable characters: Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up; the fairy, Tinker Bell; the evil pirate, Captain Hook; and the three children--Wendy, John, and Michael--who fly off with Peter Pan to Neverland, where they meet Indians and pirates and a crocodile that ticks.

“I suppose it's like the ticking crocodile, isn't it? Time is chasing after all of us.”

Beautifully written, hauntingly nostalgic, and adventure filled, Peter Pan is not a story that can be forgotten and that has made itself live on in childhood literature since its conception.

So many are familiar with the Disney version, a book and movie which highlights the fun and joyful freedom of youth as the group escapes a bedroom window to fly out into the night to a hidden world rich with adventures. The original Peter is just as joyous on some levels - the sense of magic and nostalgia is potent - but Barrie's more sophisticated and original story does more than entertain on a simple level - it makes the reader think and wonder. Is there a joy in staying young forever, free of adult responsibility and ruling responsibilities? Yes. Is there a tragedy in staying young forever and never growing? Also yes.

The character of Peter is fascinating. He's a child who likes to live carefree and is drawn to that particular nursery on the second floor for whatever reason. Through it he sees Wendy, an inspiration for a mother he doesn't know and claims he doesn't want. He invites her - and she invites her brothers - on a magical ride through the night into a strange land befit with pirates, ticking crocodiles, feisty fairies, and mermaids. 

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder… or forgetful.”

Peter has a dark tone as well. He doesn't value life because he can't comprehend it. To understand death, you'd have to be able to connect with other life and to be able to live yourself, and that can only be done by being able to grow. The author points out as a narrator in the story that Peter forgets stuff all the time, and may bore of the game of saving the boys as they learn to fly and let them drown simply because he may lose interest. He forgets all those special to him, including the main characters of the story, as he lets himself be tugged by adventure alone and no strong ties to reality and the living, evolving people.

I can see the inspiration for the magical and fertile imagination of children, but I wonder too on the thoughts of children never growing up and forgetting the realities of life through death -the author's  brother was tragically killed in an accident at the age of 13, which could leave an impression of a child leaving to fly away and abandon family while they never age.

The ticking clock trapped in the crocodile's stomach sounds like a silly thing, but when I think that clocks represent time, and Hook is running from the crocodile and ticking of the clock when it's trying to catch up with him, he knows once it catches him he will die after being consumed by the crocodile. In other words, consumed by time.

“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”

"The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out....."

Yeah, Peter totally probably kills them, as the author Brom speculated when he was inspired to write The Child Thief.

Hook is shown as a deplorable villain but there is more black and white to the story than the simplified Disney version. He is capable of sympathy but shrugs it aside in his war against Peter because of the boy's arrogant, devil-may-care attitude. I guess I understand the Peter Pan and Hook rivalry more when Peter casually mentions they kill pirates for sport while they're sleeping...

Tink is awesome - she goes around in the story mainly saying, "You silly ass", to Peter. It cracked me up. The author focused a good bit on the mother, Mrs. Darling, too, and it seemed to be because of a strong mother theme through the story, first in her and then in Wendy. Indeed the father is shown as ineffective and rather whiny, although the author points out in the end that Mrs. Darling is now dead and "long-forgotten." 

“To die will be an awfully big adventure.”

The story carries more oomph when you glimpse into the author's life and inspirations. J.M. Barrie clearly loved children. When he died in 1937, he left the copyright of Peter Pan to a children's hospital in London, which has continued to financially benefit from royalties. He got the inspiration for the story through meeting and getting close to a family with some young boys, and he took guardianship of the children to the parent's wishes when they passed away.

Sadly, the three children he adopted also perished later - one in war and one by drowning. The only one to survive Barrie, who is ironically named Peter, committed suicide by jumping in front of a train in 1960.

“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”

When I think of Peter Pan, I think of nostalgia. There is magic and joy in living for the present moment and letting go of the future, but there is no foundation. The sands of time dissolve under the feet of everyone except Peter Pan. In the end he lives on and rewards himself with lack of aging, but he forgets all and is forgotten by everyone. It is more of a magical moment that can't last. When the young die, they don't have to grow and face adulthood; they get to live with the magic of childhood forever in the memories of all who knew them when they were alive.


   Book Quotes:

“Never is an awfully long time.”