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Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

Peter Pan

Title: Peter Pan.
Author: J.M. Barrie.
Genre: Fiction, young adult lit, fantasy.
Country: U.K. (Scotland)
Language: English.
Publication Date: 1911.
Summary: Wendy, Michael, and John are on an adventure to magical Neverland with Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up. But Neverland is also the home of Captain Hook, a dangerous pirate who’s after Peter, and Neverland is a world that is, though whimsical and magical, a lot darker than it seems at first glance.

My rating: 9/10


♥ All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, "Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!" This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.

♥ I don't know whether you have ever seen a map of a person's mind. Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child's mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island; for the Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose. It would be an easy map if that were all; but there is also first day at school, religion, fathers, the round pond, needlework, murders, hangings, verbs that take the dative, chocolate pudding day, getting into braces, say ninety-nine, three-pence for pulling out your tooth your self, and so on; and either these are part of the island or they are another map showing through, and it is all rather confusing, especially as nothing will stand still.

Of course the Neverlands vary a good deal. John's, for instance, had a lagoon with flamingoes flying over it at which John was shooting, while Michael, who was very small, had flamingo with lagoons flying over it. John lived in a boat turned upside down on the sands, Michael in a wigwam, Wendy in a house of leaves deftly sewn together. John had no friends, Michael had friends at night, Wendy had a pet wolf forsaken by its parents; but on the whole the Neverlands have a family resemblance, and if they stood in a row you could say of them that they have each other's nose, and so forth. On these magic shores children at play are for ever beaching their coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more.

♥ He gave the pirate a hand to help him up.

It was then that Hook bit him.

Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed Peter. It made him quite helpless. He could only stare, horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly. All he thinks he has a right to when he comes to you to be yours is fairness. After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness;no one except Peter. He often met it, but he always forgot it. I suppose that was the real difference between him and all the rest.

♥ Peter was not quite like other boys; but he was afraid at last. A tremour ran through him, like a shudder passing over the sea; but on the sea one shudder follows another till there are hundreds of them, and Peter felt just the one. Next moment he was standing erect on the rock again, with what smile on his face and a drum beating within him. It was saying, "To die will be an awfully big adventure."

♥ "Pan, who and what are thou?" he cried huskily.

"I'm youth, I'm joy," Peter answered at a venture, "I'm a little bird that has broken out of the egg."

This, of course, was nonsense; but it was proof to the unhappy Hook that Peter did not know in the least who or what he was, which is the very pinnacle of good form.

♥ One thing I should like to do immensely, and that is to tell her, in the way authors have, that the children are coming back, that indeed they will be here on Thursday week. This would spoil so completely the surprise to which Wendy and John and Michael are looking forward. They have been planning it out on the ship: mother's rapture, father's shout of joy, Nana's leap through the air to embrace them first, when what they ought to be prepared for is a good hiding. How delicious to spoil it all by breaking the news in advance; so that when they enter grandly Mrs. Darling may not even offer Wendy her mouth, and Mr. Darling may explain pettishly, "Dash it all, here are those boys again." However, we should get no thanks even for this. We are beginning to know Mrs. Darling by this time, and may be sure that she would upbraid us for depriving the children of their little pleasure.

"But, my dear madam, it is ten days till Thursday week; so that by telling you what's what, we can save you ten days of unhappiness."

"Yes, but at what a cost! By depriving the children of ten minutes of delight."

"Oh, if you look at it that way."

"What other way is there in which to look at it?"

♥ "Mother!" Wendy cried.

"That's Wendy," she said, but still she was sure it was the dream.

"Mother!"

"That's John," she said.

"Mother!" cried Michael. He knew her now.

"That's Michael," she said, and she stretched out her arms for the three little selfish children they would never envelop again. Yes, they did, they went round Wendy and John and Michael, who had slipped out of bed and run to her.

"George, George," she cried when she could speak; and Mr. Darling woke to share her bliss, and Nana came rushing in. There could not have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a strange boy who was staring in at the window. He had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.

♥ It is sad to have to say that the power to fly gradually left them. At first Nana tied their feet to the bed-posts so that they should not fly away in the night; and one of their diversions by day was to pretend to fall off 'buses; but by and by they ceased to tug at their bonds at bed, and found that they hurt themselves when they let go of the 'bus. In time they could not even fly after their hats. Want of practice, they called it; but what it really meant was that they no longer believed.

♥ "The dear old days when I could fly!"

"Why can't you fly now, mother?"

"Because I am grown up, dearest. When people grow up they forget the way."

"Why do they forget the way?"

"Because they are no longer gay and innocent and heartless. It is only the gay and innocent and heartless who can fly."

♥ As you look at Wendy you may see her hair becoming white, and her figure little again, for all this happened long ago. Jane is now a common grown-up, with a daughter called Margaret; and every spring-cleaning time, except when he forgets, Peter comes for Margaret and takes her to the Neverland, where she tells him stories about himself, to which he listens eagerly. When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter's mother in turn; and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.
__________________

From Introduction by Peter Hollindale to the Oxford World Classics Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie:

♥ The books are scattered with examples of real or threatened breaches of contract between adult and child, and both sides are offenders. But Peter himself, and the author-in-Peter, are the only lasting victims. The emptiness, solitude, and jealousy at the heart of Peter have their likely origins in this childhood ordeal of perceived rejection.

Perhaps too it is possible to see in this first traumatic imitation (soon to be followed by more light-hearted theatrical ventures in the Kirriemuir wash-house) the beginnings not only of an interest in acting and theatre, but more ominously of the surrender to role-playing and make-believe, the inner vacuum of personality which makes for endless shape-shifting, because there is always another more real and believable one than oneself. If we ask why Peter Pan is indeed the 'tragic boy', it is partly because he is exempted from a personal reality: he is free to play an enticing variety of roles, but in the end his freedom is the freedom to be nothing.

♥ This extended boyishness was no disadvantage at Dumfries, but when he went on to Edinburgh University he became unhappily aware of being different from other men. For him there was no continuum from child to adult, nor yet the usual transition from conventional boys' make-believe to conventional male adult life; but rather perhaps a no man's land between the two. It was in Peter and Wendy that he polarized most successfully the ambiguities of his central vision - the child-in-adult and the adult-in-child. Peter and Wendy are perhaps the centre-piece of Barrie's imagination: opposite visions of Neverchild. Wendy is the child playing adult roles and games, and in her the incipient adult and mother already control the child; Peter is the child playing adult roles also, but in him the child is inviolable, separate and free. For Peter being 'father' is fun only if he knows that it is not and will not be true. The children are playing games, and the stories about them are also a game, played out in the no man's land between child and adult worlds.

♥ But some of Townsend's reasons are dubious, because they miss or underrate the intricacy of the game that Barrie is playing, and the ability of children to learn and enjoy its rules. He observes '... much of the time the author is winking over the children's heads to the adults'. This is true, but much of the time he is also winking. Over the adults' head to the children. 'I believe ... that the kind of fantasy in which the children's nurse is a dog and in which Father banishes himself to the dog-kennel is a different kind of fantasy from that of the Never Never Land, and the two do not mix.' But surely this is exactly Barrie's point. Domestic life has its absurdities and fantasies, just as the Neverland does, and the game of adult life is as full of them as childhood. Each is ridiculous, and each is most exposed in its absurdity when the other is around. Peter, soaping on his shadow or eavesdropping on stories, is as ridiculous as Wendy, sticking firmly to the midday snooze when danger is approaching. It is Peter and Wendy themselves who do not mix, and the book derives much of its comedy and poignancy from their innocent, celibate cohabitation in two incompatible worlds.
Tags: 1910s - fiction, 20th century - fiction, 3rd-person narrative, adventure, anthropomorphism, bildungsroman, books on books, british - fiction, children's lit, faerie tales, fantasy, fiction, literary criticism, literature, my favourite books, non-fiction in quote, scottish - fiction, ya
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