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Peter Pan, Chapters 1-3: First Impressions

7 Apr

This week I began reading the original version of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. I agree that the most unexpected difference I found between the book and the modern image of the story (esp. the Disney movie) was the emphasis the book had on the family’s social/economic status. I too was surprised by the Darling’s discussion about whether or not they could keep Wendy.  Though I do feel they were talking more about giving her up for adoption/abandonment since, in the book, Wendy is two weeks old when they were still calculating finances.

I am surprised that this element is often left out in today’s versions since it seems to be a driving force in the progression of the story. I felt that the second chapter outlines the entire chain of events leading from the family’s social/economic status to the disappearance of the Darling children. If the Darling’s did not need so much financially then Mr. Darling might not have been so self-conscious about his job in the city or how the neighbors viewed him and his family. In turn, they would not have felt the need to go to the party that night, or he would not have played that trick on Nana the dog for his children’s respect. Then, he would not have sent her outside so she would have been there when Peter came that night, etc.  

And Nick, I definitely agree with your comment on Peter’s personality. From Peter’s actions, and especially how J.M. Barrie describes Peter’s impact on the Darling Family, Peter seems to be more of a Trickster character. The image of Peter I’m used to seeing in movies and popular culture is more of the eternal child. What I mean is, that his actions relate more to a child’s innocence and sense of adventure, but the book’s version is (as you put) more mischievous.

Another thing I thought was interesting was that the first time Neverland was mentioned, it was (at least in my opinion) described as a place that exists in children’s imaginations or just their imaginations themselves. I always believed Neverland was supposed to be a physical location that we just could not see because it required pixie dust to get there. Adding to this, (and this may just be a stretch) the Neverland we grew up knowing seems like it is a combination of Wendy, John, and Michael’s imaginations/versions of Neverland. The book describes where each lived in their own Neverland; John in an upside down ship (like Hook’s Pirate Ship), Michael in a wigwam (such as the Indians lived in), and Wendy in a house of leaves (similar to the tree-house where the Lost Boys live).

Overall, the book does seem darker than the Disney movie. I feel that it is similar to how the Grimm Fairy Tales were darker than our modern telling of the tales. The Grimm Fairy Tales reflected things that influenced people back in those days. They were meant to impart information to children on the morals of (and how to live in) the world as they knew it. It will be interesting to see how this “children’s book” reflects what the Victorian Era tries to convey to children of that time. Then it would be interesting to see how modern versions adapt it to reflect what our society now believes is important to impress on children of today.