Term Paper: Sir James Barrie Peter Pan

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¶ … J.M. Barrie and his "Peter Pan" stories. Specifically it will discuss the character Peter Pan in the play "Peter Pan, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up" compared to the same character n "The Little White Bird." Peter Pan, one of the world's best-loved characters, is a boy who never grows up, and never wants to grow up. Written during Edwardian times, the story is a contrast in setting, with the Darling family home, filled with the social constraints of the time, contrasted with the magical world of Never Land, where the children never have to grow up and morality is unnecessary.

Barrie wrote both these works at the height of the Edwardian Era in England, the period between 1901 and 1910. The country was becoming a bit more open and free than it had been during Victorian times, but there were still societal constraints on how people behaved and appeared. Wealth, birth, and place in society were all extremely important, even though members of the "lower" classes, such as women and laborers, were gaining more rights. Barrie alludes to this in "Peter Pan" when he notes that the Darlings are poor, and yet they have a servant, a maid, but they refer to her as "the servants," as if they can employ an entire crew of maids, butlers, and cooks. They also cannot afford a nurse for the children, so they employ Nana, the dog, another attempt at fitting into respectable Edwardian society. In reality, the differences between the caste system of Edwardian England, compared with the freedom of the boys in Never Land, indicates the vast gulf that existed between wealthy Edwardians and the rest of England, and it indicates how restrictive and rigid English society was at the time.

Peter Pan first makes an appearance in "The Little White Bird," a Barrie story written in 1902 and narrated in the first person by "Captain W____." Peter Pan is introduced in the middle of the book, and eventually, the Peter Pan chapters became a separate child's book titled "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens." In this book, Barrie creates a character that is not human, and never ages. He writes, "Of course, it also shows that Peter is ever so old, but he is really always the same age, so that does not matter in the least" ("White Bird" 132). However, he tells Wendy in the play that he ran away when he was born. He says, "Because I heard father and mother talking of what I was to be when I became a man. I want always to be a little boy and to have fun; so I ran away to Kensington Gardens and lived a long time among the fairies" ("Peter Pan" 32). In fact, in the book, Peter becomes a "Betwixt and Between" when he runs away, something between a bird and a human, and certainly not a little boy who never grows up.

In "White Bird," Peter spends his early years on an island in Kensington Gardens, and he cannot leave because he cannot fly or swim. In fact, he gets off the island because the birds build him a boat (actually a thrush's nest). Clearly, this is not the same Peter that flies to Never Land and back, using fairy dust to travel. Later, the fairies give him the ability to fly, allowing him to travel more freely. Clearly, Peter remains a baby in the book, while Peter is much older in the play (although he still has his baby teeth). In the book, he hides from humans, because "he is not so human as all that" ("White Bird" 153), while he does not shy away from humans in the play at all. The biggest difference is that in the book, Peter tries to go home to his mother and resume his life as a boy, but he cannot get into the house, and he leaves, sobbing, to return to Kensington Gardens. In the play, Peter would never return to his mother, and he turns down Mrs. Darling's offer of adoption, as well. In the play, Peter has a true fear of growing up and responsibility. He fearfully asks Wendy, "It is only pretend, isn't it, that I am their father?" ("Peter Pan" 105). Finally, Peter in the book falls in love, while Peter in the play will never allow himself to feel love or devotion to anyone but himself. In many ways, the two characters are diametrically… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Sir James Barrie Peter Pan.  (2008, April 15).  Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/sir-james-barrie-peter-pan/7071662

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"Sir James Barrie Peter Pan."  Essaytown.com.  April 15, 2008.  Accessed November 21, 2019.
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