Book Review: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Peter PanPeter Pan by J.M. Barrie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"All children, except one, grow up."

This sent tingles down my spine as I began J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. I did not develop a passion for reading until High School, therefore, I did not grow up reading books such as Peter Pan. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It is whimsical and clever.

Never land is the creation of our childhood dreams. The Darlings went eagerly with Peter as they already knew him, when they touched Never land it was familiar ground. "We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we still land no more."

The character of Peter is not the hero that I had assumed he would be. He is a child. He is "gay, young and heartless." He refuses to grow up but takes on the role of an adult. He demands to be the leader of the lost boys (later to also be called "father"), yet he shirks the responsibilities of adulthood. He can never be a friend, he can never give the love that his followers yearn for. He will never be what others want or need him to be, he can only be exactly as he is at the moment. He doesn't have the mental capability of understanding what he does and how his actions effect others. He is a consciousness that never grows, never develops, never retains. He isn't free, he is stunted.

He often doesn't see beyond himself. On the route to Never land, Peter forgets who Wendy and at the end of the tale he even forgets Tinker Bell. The fairy who was his constant companion, who tried to kill (Wendy) for him, who drank poison to save him. When Wendy tries to remind Peter of Tinker Bell, he nonchalantly replies that fairies live short lives and she probably died. In the words of Tinker Bell, "stupid ass."

It's not clear to me how Hook is able to step on the island. I can understand that the Indians are a creation of the imaginations of the children; however, Hook is apparently a well known British gentleman which Barrie introduced in the novelization as a satirical charter and villain (as there was none in the play -- besides possibly Peter).

I must agree with the narrator, I do think that Mrs Darling is my favorite. She is intelligent, graceful, cunning, and loving.

In a way, it is such a sad story. The boy who missed out. The boy who thought he was free. "Like slaves to a fixed idea, [he] was a stupid beast."

While we watch the Darlings reunited and accepting the lost boys as members of the family. We are reminded that this is not for Peter, "He had had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must for ever barred. "

Peter Pan is magical and wonderful. Frustrating and sad. And maybe that is what our innocence was, magical and wonderful and frustrating and sad. We cannot live fully within it, and we cannot live fully without it.

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