Research Paper: Peter, Wendy &amp the Victorian

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[. . .] Since she is the only girl with the lost boys, she can be appreciated much better. However, at one point when the boys are building her a house Wendy asks for stereotypical items taught to young girls at early ages. She asks for windows to be all around, with roses peeping in, and babies peeping out (Barrie 62). Since the boys are ultimately babes they quickly made the fast-growing roses for the home and broke into song again to change the subject away from ordering babies (Barrie 63).

As much as the lost boys love her and want to build her castle, when the boys are threatened with Wendy's departure they instantly consider chaining her up and making her their prisoner (Barrie 99). Here Barrie is criticizing the gender role that continuous mothers are stuck in by literally being trapped in their homes and unable to come out to experience the world. Essentially, mothers raise the boys that will eventually become men and fathers who are encouraged to go out in the world and have adventures. Also, when Wendy finally returns to the Darling's residence Peter still wishes for her to be in Neverland and asks her mother if she can come. Mrs. Darling is hesitant, but eventually agrees to allow Wendy to return to Neverland once a year for one week only. However, it is not for fun, it is for Wendy to help Peter do his spring cleaning; simply woman's work, which is more housework (Barrie 145).

The concept of youth is tied up with energy, freedom, and happiness. Thus, non-youth, or old age symbolizes laziness, being controlled, and ultimately unhappiness. Barrie illustrates societies hold on the idea of trying to maintain youthful looks in a number of instances. When it comes to the trees that take the boys up and down to their underground home, they must maintain their size in order for it to work (Barrie 67). Youth is wrapped in this idea maintaining your looks or your form and doing it so simply that you don't even notice, "When you have mastered the action you are unable to do these things without thinking of them, and then nothing can be more graceful (Barrie 67). Wendy notices that once you fit in a tree (society) you should keep on fitting to keep a family in perfect condition (outside appearances).

During the final battle between Hook and Peter Pan, Hook becomes dejected by Peter's great sword skill and asks him who he really is. Peter replies to Hook in the abstract sense, "I'm youth, I'm joy […] I'm a little bird that has broken out of the egg" (Barrie 130). Hook believes that Peter does not really know himself, yet he envies Peter's 'good form' since not knowing what you were and how you did it was the ultimate goal of 'good form'. Here Barrie is discussing the adult world of codes and morals that have been taught to you through good schooling to the point of doing them naturally.

Peter literally fought Hook (death) with his sword and with his mind through simple logic. Peter believed that if you never grew up, you never got old, and never died (Barrie 24). While there were many trappings that came with youth, e.g., selfishness, forgetfulness, heartlessness, the benefits of beating death were much better to Peter Pan. For one Peter was always busy; he hated lethargy and while he was around Neverland it was always beehive of activity (Barrie 47).

In regard to appearances Peter would not let any other lost boy dress like him (Barrie 47). This pressing for individuality and uniqueness was at odds with Mr. Darling and Victorian society. Mr. Darling and other adults had a passion for looking like each other. So when they needed a nurse but could only afford Nana the dog this made Mr. Darling very upset (Barrie 7).

At a very young age Barrie realized that a time would come where his time of playing games would come to an end. He dreaded this future date and promised himself that he would always play in secret (Dunbar 15). This idea is transposed in Barrie's Peter and Wendy many times that responsibility and adulthood should be dreaded. In fact, Peter Pan and the island of Neverland is the ideal place where one can shirk responsibility. It is the compact island where adventures stack up on each other, not like the adult world that is sparse and boring.

The inability of Peter to understand the serious implications of life and death was displayed many times throughout the story. When the children fell asleep while flying to Neverland for the first time Peter would scoop them up at the last second, but ultimately he treated it as a game of cleverness and not about saving a human life (Barrie 37). Fun is paramount with Peter, not like with Mr. Darling who calculates the worth of a child by calculating the expenses by the cost of diseases (Barrie 7). Moreover, Mr. Darling's passion lies in being like neighbors and must always consider his position in society before he commits to any behavior. In the world of adults one can only break social norms when they have been struck by a tragedy. This is why Mr. Darling wears the kennel like a proud badge of sorrow and is ultimately cheered for it (Barrie 137). That is the backwardness of the adult world and responsibility.

Neverland was safely far away from responsibilities and the Victorian social norms. In Neverland one could be filled up on food that was make-believe (Barrie 68). Peter could never tell the difference from truth and make-believe: they were the same to him all the time. So why would he ever leave? When Peter was offered to be adopted by Wendy's Mom he asked a few questions as to the conditions of the agreement: Would he be sent to a school, then an office, and finally become a man? Peter disliked this and said he would rather not go to school and learn solemn things (Barrie 144). He never wanted to be a man, and he never would.

Peter and Wendy is a classical tale of eternal youth that strikes a chord with adults and children alike. The non-stop action and adventure and invincibility of Peter and his Neverland is at odds with modern societies rules, norm, and mundane work schedule. Children relish watching the fun, and adults reminisce of their childhoods, but more importantly Peter Pan allows us to look at the necessity of imagination. Ultimately, the principal of creativity is the same whether or it's being used in make-believe or the real world. And Barrie's play shows us how we have used our creativity in society to control others and make responsibility a burden rather than a privilege. Society and the power we give it, is keeping us from enjoying ourselves.

Bibliography

Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan: Peter & Wendy & Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

London: Penguin, 2004

Birkin, Andrew. J.M. Barrie & the Lost Boys: The Love Story that Gave Birth to Peter

Pan. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1979.

Dunbar, Janet. J.M. Barrie: The Man Behind the Imange. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,

1970.

Melman, Billie. "Gender, History & Memory: The Invention of Women's Past in the Nineteenth & Early Twentieth Centuries." History & Memory 5.1 (1993):… [END OF PREVIEW]

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