Review: “Peter Pan” by J.M. Barrie

For the love of books

Originally titled Peter and WendyPeter Pan scrutinizes the differences between children and adults.  More importantly, the character of Peter Pan is an unspoken wish for the perpetuity of youth and childhood.

Peter Pan is a boy who can never grow up, and while Neverland is a place for children and their fruitful imaginations, it still is inhabited by dangerous adults like Captain Hook who is the source of adventure in the story.  Although Peter Panis a novel for children, it should be also read by adults in order for them to recapture their understanding of a child’s nature and innocence.  The storyline is actually complex.  Wendy, John, and Michael Darling all fervently believe in Peter Pan and his fairy, Tinker Bell.  When they leave their home in London one night to go to Neverland, they have the most exciting adventures and new experiences of their life with their guide.  However, no magical land would be complete without a villain, especially one as nefarious as Captain Hook.  He and Peter Pan are mortal enemies, and the battles they continually fight put Wendy and her brothers in jeopardy as well.  As time passes, all Darling children begin to forget their earthly memories, even those of their parents.

A dog being the Darling children’s Nana and the ability of fairy dust to make children fly are a few of J.M. Barrie’s charming ideas, but it is notable that while the author focuses on the effervescence of childhood, he still incorporates the reality of vice into his story.  For example, Captain Hook wants to murder Peter Pan, Peter Pan is cocky and selfish, and Tinker Bell’s jealousy of Wendy increases to such a degree that Tinker Bell tries to kill her.  Innocence is transitory, for most of Barrie’s characters display numerous faults.  Even though Neverland sustains one’s youth, it also seems to bring out children’s darker sides.  Peter Pan does try to be heroic during trouble, and so do John and Michael.  As wonderful as the childhood is, the author points out that in this life it is impossible for any child to escape impending adulthood, which will gradually change his/her temperament and way of living permanently.  The concept of never growing up is pleasing to imagine, and that is why Peter Pan will always have the power to re-awaken one’s “inner child.”

Despite being violent and a little romantic, this novel still has resplendent moments, like the resurrection of Tinker Bell and the battle where Peter almost dies, two scenes in the novel which demonstrate the power of belief.  Moreover, every corner of Neverland holds magical creatures, Native Americans, pirates, and the thrill of freedom from age and parental restrictions.  The irony is when Wendy, John, and Michael eventually feel the emptiness of not having their mother and father nearby after an indefinite stay in Peter’s world, a memory which persuades all Darling children to return home.  Peter’s Lost Boys also experience this “loss” of parents.  In spite of having everything their imaginations could possibly conjure, the children ultimately want their “missing” parents the most, a permanent feature of reality that can never belong to Neverland and everlasting adolescence.  However, when the Darling children are adults, they long again for their childhood days.  Barrie describes this longing with his illustrative language and unusual expressions.  Peter Pan gently explains the paradox of leaving childhood behind and becoming an adult.  While the latter is a “point of no return,” the former leaves a sense of loss and a childish spark that cannot be cannot be removed.  Every time that Peter Pan is read, that spark is re-lit and Peter Pan’s indomitable spirit lives on forever through Barrie’s words.

Original review: Part 1: The storyland where childhood exists foreverPart 2: The storyland where childhood exists foreverPart 3: The storyland where childhood exists forever, Examiner.com

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