Before reading ‘Peter Pan’,I was already aware that it was an exquisite piece of art,particularly because it consummately mirrors J.M.Barrie’s fear of growing up.However,after my journey with Peter and the other kids, I figured out that,let alone the story, Peter himself is a masterpiece into which Barrie must have put much work and much of himself.Indeed,as a result of his having no misfortune occurring in his life and no restriction on his behaviour(he has no parent), Peter ,as we can see in a myriad of ways,is childhood at its purest.
As you must have seen in Barrie’s book, Peter is utterly carefree-sometimes a bit too much,according to Wendy and the others.Whilst flying with the children to Neverland, he doesn’t mind leaving them for new adventures and even forgets their names when he comes back.In like manner, he is not able to hold his promise to Wendy: he forgets that he should take her to Neverland each spring. But Peter is a child;he doesn’t know what responsibility is, has never had any parent to infuse a sense of responsibility in him and cannot differentiate between responsibility and irresponsibility.This is why,when he comes to Wendy’s house years later,Wendy doesn’t argue with him upon seeing that he has forgotten his vow. This trait in Peter is peculiarly childish,for children tend to renege on their promises. It also highlights the fact that Peter is an innocent and pure child,whose mind has not been corrupted by the maxims of adults.In fact, this trait alone evokes pathos,for it makes us realize that in our world, our mind is bound to be corrupted; we are not as free as Peter, that is,if we break a promise, remorse will soon gnaw us.In this regard, we may extrapolate about Peter’s freedom: Peter is as free to do whatever he wants as he is free from the chains of feelings.
Barrie also spotlights Peter’s innocence through his faith in make-believe.This is best shown shortly after Wendy collapses.Peter asks Slightly to fetch a doctor,and the latter quickly vanishes in the forest,only to return with a big hat and a serious air.Much to our surprise, Peter sees Slightly-who is not even disguised- as a doctor and pays an especial attention to his words.Similarly,there are days when none of the children eats anything,for Peter has decided-this depends on his moods-that dinner will be make-believe.In fact, this credulity of his, not only highlights his innocence, but also gives us an insight as to why he is ”the boy who never grows up.” It is worth noting that the others can differentiate between reality and make-believe,but when they try to bring Peter back to reality,he scolds them.This disparity of thought between Peter and the children suggests that Peter is ‘the only child who never grows up’ because he is the only child who holds an unmitigated faith in make-believe.
Another typically-childish trait of Peter is his cockiness, the trait which Captain Hook dreads the most in the boy. Like any other child,Peter thinks highly of himself and is often patronizing. For instance, the lost boys are forbidden to look the least like him,to grow taller than him and to know anything which he doesn’t know. In fact,given that he is the embodiment of pure childhood, Peter’s cockiness,like any of his other traits, is particularly heightened. Indeed,as shown in the beginning, he loves being credited with the ideas of others: after Wendy successfully sews his shadow onto his body, Peter forgets that it is her who actually did the work, believes that it is him who did it and boasts gleefully about his cleverness. Barrie himself cannot help but paraphrase this peculiar trait of his: ”It is humiliating to have to confess that this conceit of Peter was one of his most fascinating qualities.To put it with brutal frankness, there never was a cockier boy.” Moreover,Peter’s conceit doesn’t allow him to be weak,leading him to always try to stifle his feelings. He tells Wendy he wasn’t crying over the ‘loss’ of his shadow (although he was) and in a latter part of the story, he tries his best to remain indifferent upon seeing all children about to leave him,though we know he is totally heartbroken. Once again, such an attitude is often seen in little boys,who feel the need to be as emotionally tough as their father.
But above all, Peter’s innocence shines throughout the story,and it doesn’t leave us indifferent.He always fight his enemies in a fair manner and will never seize any iniquitous opportunity to kill them. This peculiar sense of fair-play is shown during his fight with Cook: ”Quick as thought he snatched a knife from Hook’s belt and was about to drive it home ,when he saw that he was higher up the rock than his foe.It would not have been fighting fair.He gave the pirate a hand to help him up.”
Additionally, Peter Pan doesn’t know what a kiss means. Instead of kissing Wendy at the moment of her departure, he simply gives her his hand. Similarly,he doesn’t feel love for anyone: although Tiger Lily and Wendy fancy him a lot, he simply sees them as friends. In fact, love for the opposite sex is one of the first syndromes which show our slow growth from children into adolescents.In this sense, Peter’s immunity to love is another factor contributing to his status of ‘the boy who never grows up.’ Lastly, Peter’s innocence also lies in his ignorance of whether or not he is behaving correctly.He does a series of wrong things in the story,yet he doesn’t know that he is being mischievous.From this attitude of Peter, we may infer that parents contribute a lot to dragging us out of our childhood,by stuffing maxims and morals in our head: ”you shouldn’t do this…”, ”you should do that…”, ”this is not correct…”. Eventually, these morals forge our behaviour,and consequently,we no longer live like we wish to.Again, Peter’s freedom,resulting from a lack of parental authority, may be why he never grows up.
Paradoxically, JM Barrie keeps his story very realistic. We are told that fairies do exist: ”It is the fairy language.You ordinary children can never hear it ,but if you were to hear it, you would know you had heard it once before.” Likewise, Peter Pan,according to the text, does visit our world, ”so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.” The incredulous ones may say that there is no such thing as a boy who never grows up,but have they ever seen a child who embodies all the traits of childhood? Barrie,here,subtly sends us a clear message: Just because you don’t see something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.This realistic aspect of the story is what makes Peter so special. As opposed to other touching characters we have encountered in other books, we can never shun or forget Peter on the account that he is fictional. This is why Peter Pan will always keep a special place in our hearts. Peter, the boy who never grows up. Peter, the gay and innocent and heartless child.