Why Peter Pan by JM Barrie Matters Today
Peter Pan and similar stories matter today, more than ever, because we do not take enough time to dream, and step into the world of make believe because we are too busy. Peter Pan allows us to think that we can make the impossible possible. Michael, John and Wendy Darling tried to fly and they kept at it until they became good at it. We can conceive and believe something, but until we take action, nothing will become of our idea. The book also highlights the fundamental differences between adults and children.
The children’s drama Peter Pan by James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937) was first presented on the London stage in 1904, and then in the form of a novel in 1911. Sir James Matthew Barrie got his inspiration to write Peter Pan from five little boys – Nico, Jack, Peter, George, and Michael – of the Llewelyn Davies family. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography, “Barrie never wanted to face the pain and unhappiness of the adult world. Thus much of his writing is emotionally sentimental as well as thematically autobiographical.” (Vol. 2. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2004. p21-22).
Peter Pan by Sir James Matthew Barrie is a whimsical, magical story where children can fly, dogs can be nannies, and parents have the ability to scan their children’s mind while they are sleeping to learn what they are up to. “It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for the next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers.”
Peter Pan is a story of making the impossible possible by believing and taking action. The story of Peter Pan is so ridiculous that you cannot help but enjoy it.
Mrs Darling loves to tell her three children, Wendy, John and Michael bedtime stories before they go to sleep. Without her knowledge, Peter Pan listens to the stories and returns to Neverland where he tells the stories to the lost boys – boys taken away from their parents. One night while Peter Pan is leaving the children’s nursery, Nana, the dog who is the children’s nanny, catches Peter Pan’s shadow in its mouth. Mrs Darling examines the shadow and decides to roll it up and place in a drawer. At nights the children often dream of the magical island, Neverland, so they know about it.
After one incident, Mr Darling banishes Nana to stay outside in the kennel because he wants to let everyone know that he is master of his own home, but that decision comes to haunt him for a while. One night, Peter Pan returns for his shadow while the three children are sleeping in the nursery, and unfortunately Nana is locked outside the home. Peter Pan is with the fairy Tinkerbell. They find Peter’s shadow, but he cannot stick it back on and starts to cry.
The crying awakes Wendy, and of course she wants to know why he is crying. She sews back on Peter’s shadow. There is a lot of exchange going on between Wendy and Peter, and Tinkerbell is quite jealous. Peter uses chicanery to get Wendy to leave with him. Which child wouldn’t want to see mermaids, learn to fly and all the things that fairy tales are made of. Meanwhile Nana is very suspicious and starts to bark. She ultimately breaks free and goes to the house where Mr and Mrs Darling are at a party. They sense danger and go with Nana, but alas they are too late and the kids are gone.
Mr and Mrs Darling are devastated and cannot be consoled. The children are flying to Neverland which is far away. It’s very tiring and they are sleepy, but how can you sleep while flying. When they fall asleep, they start to fall, and Peter often waits until the absolute last moment to save them. To him it’s quite funny to watch. They are hungry and he teaches them to steal food out of the beaks of birds. Quite often it is a futile attempt.
Because of her jealousy, Tinkerbell wants to get rid of Wendy. When the three Darling children arrive at Neverland, Wendy’s role is changed to that of mother. Very soon Michael and John start to forget about their parents, but Wendy constantly reminds them by telling stories and sets examinations papers on it. Wendy is confident that their parents will welcome them back with open arms and she takes comfort in knowing that.
As the story unfolds, we learn about Execution Dock, Captain Henry Hook and his crew. There is a rivalry between Peter Pan and Captain Hook who lost his hand because of Peter Pan. Peter cut off Captain Hook’s right arm and fed it to a crocodile who now thirsts for the villain’s blood. Captain Cook is a bully, and like most bullies, he is a coward.
Peter Pan is childlike and wants to remain that way forever – he doesn’t ever want to grow up. Peter is also a “show-off” who makes the children and the lost boys dependent of him. It’s quite funny when they have pretend meals. They are hungry, however at meal times, they do not always have actual food, so they pretend that they are eating a meal.
Captain hook captures everyone except Peter Pan and intends to kill them. You see team work in action when they help Peter to finally vanquish his archenemy Captain Hook. The Darling children say they want to go home, and the lost boys return with them. Peter Pan doesn’t want to live with the Darlings or any other family because that means that he has to grow up, which he doesn’t want to do.
Back home, Mr and Mrs Darling are saddened by the disappearance of their children. Mr Darling pays penance by living in Nana’s kennel because he didn’t listen to the dog’s pleas. When the children return, the parents make room for the extra boys because they are so glad to see their children. The following year Peter Pan returns and wants to take Wendy once again, but Mrs Darling is having none of it. They come to an agreement that for one week each spring, Wendy can return to Neverland and do some spring cleaning for Peter.
Time is very different for Peter and he returns infrequently, until he shows up when Wendy is grown and married. By that time Peter Pan is no longer important to her. Wendy tells the Neverland story to her daughter Jane. One spring when Peter Pan returns, because his concept of time is so different, he doesn’t realize that Wendy is a grown woman and he asks for Michael and John. Wendy tells Peter Pan that the child sleeping is a new one and she tells him that she is a grown woman. Peter Pan is distraught because he didn’t want Wendy to grow up.
Peter Pan teaches Jane to fly, and the same deal is made that each spring, Jane will go to Neverland for a week to spring clean. This was the first time I read Peter Pan and what I liked most about the story is the magic of believing that you can do the impossible. Peter Pan convinced Michael, John and Wendy that they could fly. They believed they could fly and tried to fly until they mastered it. A big part was taking action. I recommend Peter Pan by J M Barrie because every now and again we need to step into the land of make believe.
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