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Transcript of Peter Pan
James Matthew Barrie
Peter Pan and the Flight from Reality: A Tale of Narcissism, Nostalgia and Narrative Trespass
1. Do you agree that the reason Peter never grows up is due to Barrie subconsciously wanting to fill the role of his deceased brother?
By: Nell Boulton
Boulton had a few main points about the story of Peter Pan. They include how Barrie's own disturbing childhood is reflected in the tale, Peter shows an Oedipus complex, and the world of Neverland is both the map of a child's mind and the nostalgic memories of an adult's past.
Boulton's abstract of the essay is as follows:
"It is argued that J.M. Barrie's 'Neverland' represents a latency phantasy of flight to a world apart from that of adults, in which there is scope for both a denial of, and a tentative exploration of, the coming realities of adolescence. Celebrated for his ability to stay a boy forever, Peter Pan can be understood as a character who embodies the narcissistic need of some individuals to retreat from the realities of the adult world. Reactions to Peter Pan have been curiously divided and it is suggested that this split can be understood in terms of Barrie's highly ambivalent attitude towards childhood in which sentimental nostalgia quickly turns to bitterness and a sense of exclusion from the maternal object."
2. Neverland is supposedly the map of a child's mind or even the memories of childhood from an adult. Which do you think it is? Is it both? Give examples.
3. In Boulton's essay, it is believed that Hook represents Peter's father and that there is an Oedipus complex between the two. Do you agree with this view? If so, what are some examples from the novel?
4. In the novel, the children, especially Peter, fear adulthood. Is the character of Hook evil because he is an adult?
5. When at the lagoon, Peter helps Hook up the Marooner's rock to have a fair fight. Hook unfairly bites Peter and the narrator mentions, "After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never afterwards be quite the same boy" when speaking of children (82). What does this show about the innocence of children? When victim to unfairness and the cruel reality of the world, how does that change them?
6. When flying to Neverland, the children get sleepy and keep falling toward the ocean. Every time Michael would doze, "Eventually Peter would dive through the air just before he would strike the sea" (38). This is an example of how Peter's mischievousness could be considered taken too far. How does this reflect a child's knowledge of good and bad?
7. Many times throughout the story, it is mentioned that Peter does not recognize the difference between make believe and reality. For the Lost Boys, "this sometimes troubled them, as when they had to make-believe that they had had their dinners" (61). At what point is the "make-believe" taken too far?
8. How does Wendy's character portray the household women of the late 1800's early 1900's? What does it say about how women were expected to act in adulthood?
9. Peter never wishes to grow up. With adulthood, there are no adventures, just a dull life and a dull job. How does this reflect the anxieties of children not wanting to grow up and take on responsibilities?
1860 - 1937
Inspirations include meeting the three Davies boys, whom he told stories to at the Kensington Gardens near his house. He also drew from the death of his mother's favorite son, which caused her severe depression. He desperately tried to fill his brother's shoes in order to gain his mother's love, but failed, with her only comfort being the fact her son had died and would remain a boy forever.
Narcissism: Peter wants Wendy only so she can fill the role of a mother for him and the lost boys. He is very controlling of the people around him, even disposing of the lost boys if they began to grow too old. He only surrounds himself with a false family so his needs are fulfilled. Also, an interesting point. If Wendy fills the roll of mother and Peter and Hook are both fighting over her, there seems to be a bit of an Oedipus complex.
Neverland: The narrator describes Neverland as the winding map of a child's mind and imagination. It is also a place that can only be truly visited by children. Adults are merely "lookers-on" and to them, Neverland is a series of nostalgic memories in which they cannot return. There seems to be some bitterness as a result of their longing.
10. What do you think the symbolism behind the clock in the crocodile's stomach and the hidden kiss on the lips of Wendy's mother?