Monday, November 06, 2006

Peter Pan

While familiar with the plays and movies of Peter Pan, I didn't think I had ever read the book by James Barrie so recently listened to it on tape. Since some of the details that are only in the book were familiar, I must have read it and forgotten.

The Plot: You're kidding, right? Right? What, it's a tradition, now I have to do it?

OK, if I must: Peter Pan visits Wendy Darling, and takes Wendy and her brothers back to Never Land for an endless childhood of play and games, while the Darling parents wait by an open window, praying for their children to return.

The Good: I loved reading this book as an adult; and I adore Peter. Not because he is adorable; but because he is so honest and brutal and self-involved. He is a real child, who hasn't been glamorized or sanctified, at least not by Barrie. Peter is "gay and innocent and heartless." And it is in that heartlessness that Peter is so such a wonderful creation, because I'm not sure how many books are so heartless themselves in viewing children. It is this heartlessness that I didn't recognize as a child in my reading of the text, probably because of being heartless myself so not recognizing Peter as being anything other than a typical child; but I see it now. And think that it's must reading as an adult. (Makes me think those who say Peter Pan is fun and uplifting haven't read the book as a grownup.) Part of my adoring him includes, at times, being afraid of him and what he is capable of.

There are quite the few layers here: the grief of the Darling parents at the loss of their children, the way the children act without adults around, the imitating of adult behaviour, the pure living in the moment.

I loved how Barrie captured the belief and fantasy of childhood, and even the casualness of death and violence as seen thru child's play. Pan is so in the moment; I was as shocked as Wendy when I found that Pan didn't even remember who Tinkerbell was. The past is the past; only the present matters.

I like Barrie's narration, all seeing, at times bordering on snarky.

I also liked the humor, the fallibility of the grownups, the Darlings, with a foot both in fantasy and reality. Having read it, I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Peter Pan in Scarlet, by Geraldine McCaughrean.


Little Willow said...

I'm glad that you enjoyed it!

Poor Tink. I get SO MAD at Peter when I get the ending of that book - Every. Single. Time. - and he's forgotten her. Grrr.

Indeed, Peter is all of those selfish, heartless things, and I'm always surprised when people DON'T see that . . . because that's the point!

So good. So unique.

Anonymous said...

What did you think of the most recent Peter Pan movie? I am fascinated by it and the element of burgeoning sexuality it adds to the story. This Peter Pan is dangerous in new ways. And parts of it were so visually breathtaking, like the faeries' ball and Peter and Wendy's corresponding waltz. But the fetid nature of this Neverland makes Peter's decision at the end quite wrong and sad. It isn't a place you'd really choose to linger in.

And I'm with Little Willow. I always hated in the book how he completely forgot about Tinkerbelle, poor unrequited Tink, who willing died for him.

Liz B said...

The movie: I loved the movie; and was also fascinated by what they highlighted, especially the conflict for Wendy -- remain a child or become an adult? Funnily enough, I was just watching this the past weekend with my neice and nephew who, of course, were all about the flying.

Peter's decision reflect that he himself is indeed wrong and sad -- not a glorified child, but someone stuck in childhood way too long and ultimately not appealing because of it (and this is why I adore how he is written.) I think that, as shocking as his forgetting Tink is, it reinforces that Wendy's choice is the right one: to leave Never Land, to leave Peter Pan. Had Peter not been so unknowingly brutal -- "heartless" -- there could have been a twinge of "if only" from Wendy. That's why I love it -- not that I love Peter forgetting her; but I love that the character remains true and that it doesn't glorify extended, perpetual childhood.

Anonymous said...

The review was well done. I reread the book recently with even older mom-eyes and say ditto on all you expressed.