Straight on till Morning
I’m sure I don’t need to describe the story of Peter Pan – not only have Disney given us a cartoon to fall in love with, but the character’s name is used as a reference point across generations.
But who do you relate to? Where is the reader meant to find themselves in this fantasy world?
In a story that’s filled with imagination, that takes you through a camp of “red indians” (ignoring the racial problems of that phrase to use a direct quote from the book), a world of fairies, a flying pirate ship, and a mermaid lagoon, how are we to know who to trust?
When I was younger, the attraction of Peter Pan was that he could please everyone. When Wendy, John and Michael talk about their wildest fantasies, they’re on about completely different things, and Neverland provides them all. It really is a child’s playground.
In fact, it’s’s what every fantasy children’s book should be. Low stakes adventure with all the magical elements you could want.
It was only when I read it as an adult that I realised it’s more sinister than it seems. The low stakes aren’t as low as they appear and Peter’s happy-go-lucky attitude starts to strike a discordant note. He has no awareness of the danger that faces them. His fatal flaw is his inability to accept responsibility.
Why I Recommend: Growing Up
Peter Pan is every kid’s dream. Never having to grow up, staying in the joy of childhood forever, free and relaxed, unconcerned – unaware, in fact, of the heaviness of the world.
But the truth is, we all have to grow up sooner or later.
For a long time, I didn’t want to accept this. There are days I still don’t want to, and wish I could return to the naivety of childhood.
Having recently reread Peter Pan though, I took a really different view of the Barrie’s message to the one the Disney film instilled in me. Growing up is the best thing that can happen to you.
It’s hard to hear that, but I stand by it. The message of Peter Pan isn’t that youth is superior, that childhood is the best part of our lives, or that believing in fairies will solve your problems.
It’s hard to face the challenges that adulthood brings with it, and we should never lose that spark of imagination that childhood provides, but the fact the Lost Boys decide to leave Peter behind and continue to grow up is an indication of the true moral of the story.
It’s a natural progression that we have to make, admitting to ourselves at some point that childhood is wonderful, but adulthood can be too.
I think I could do a whole literary analysis of Peter Pan and the representation of Mr Darling, Hook and Peter to show you that Barrie’s message isn’t that growing up is bad, only that we shouldn’t lost what made childhood so special. Be imaginative and wild and free, never stop fighting, and be unceasingly passionate about what you love, but do it by being aware of the consequences of your actions.
Oh, and good thoughts really do help you fly…maybe not literally, but definitely emotionally.