artwork copyright © Adam Welker
Original source: http://evelmash.deviantart.com/art/Peter-Pan-32517838
by J. M. Barrie
Peter governs the lost boys like a dictator. The utter submission as well as loyalty he requires from his followers, namely the Lost Boys, somehow makes him a totalitarian leader–even Neverland itself submits him, coming alive only during his presence. In fact, it can be argued that the island and the inhabitants of Neverland are figments of Peter’s imagination, or projections of Peter’s mind. Many characters in Neverland represent different aspects of a conflicted, fractured personality such as Peter himself. Or perhaps, it is an imagined and allegorical place for all, despite their age? Peter, the boy who never grows up and Hook, Peter’s archenemy and foil who grew up physically, but never mentally or emotionally. Their connection as one and the same exists in their mutual lack of a mother, their tyranical and absolute leadership over their subjects, and their symbolic resistance of each other. Peter resists adulthood just as Hook resists the child within him–these two mentalities become militarized, represented by the Lost Boys with their daggers and Hook’s crew of pirate thugs.
Hook, being grown up, loses a part of himself to “time”, represented by the crocodile who’s swallowed a clock that tics whenever he swims near. Hook’s lost hand (cut off by, guess who, Peter Pan!) is replaced by a metal hook. I read this as symbolic of some sort of childhood trauma (hand being cut off by Peter, representing childhood), fed to the monster of time (who has taken quite a liking towards Hook’s taste of flesh). As a result, Hook develops a defensive mechanism for himself–the deadly metal hook, replacing his lost childhood. He defends himself from vulnerability, and manifests his fear into violence. He is terrified of the crocodile–terrified of time catching up to him, terrified of his childhood–hence his resentment for Peter.
Peter and Hook are both deprived of maternal love, as they have both expressed their yearning for a mother. Hook actually wants to kidnap Wendy so the pirates can all have mothers, which I find quite hilarious, but at the same time reveals the profound yearning for a mother figure and love possessed by most characters on Neverland. Come to think of it, the “Neverland” is supposed be a place of wonder, filled with mermaids, pirates, redskins and adventures. It’s a place representing childhood, since these things are what usually children daydream about. Yet, this is also a place of death, as the pirates, redskins and the Lost Boys frequently engage in warfare. The beast of time (crocodile) lurks around the waters and threatens everyone’s safety. In many ways the crocodile is the “real grown up” on Neverland…because he carries the weight of time and the perceived danger that ensues. “Neverland” is a place where you never grow up, but I think the actual implications of the name are profoundly darker than our first impressions. It’s a place where you never have a mother. There are no motherly figures on the island, except for Wendy, who is posing as a mother and fulfills the role of a mother–but alas, she is not a mother, and it’s all performance. Neverland is a place where you are never truly loved, and the result is the constant war between the different factions of childhood. An allegory for the internal conflicts and shadows within a person, “who never grows up”?
I find it interesting how Wendy is enticed by the stereotypical chores and tasks of a housewife, such as sewing and taking care of a baby. Peter lures her to Neverland with the promise that she gets to be a mother. I’m still not sure how to make of this, but I will properly address this in another post. It’s funny how desperately we want to grow up when we were kids, and regret growing up, in some sense, when we’re adults? Of course, it’s not implicit and direct like that. Our desire for childhood is much more complex and intricate and hidden than that.
I also want to look at the relationship between Wendy, TInker Bell and Tiger Lily–the female characters of the book, but I shall continue reading first, since Tiger Lily and Peter’s party hasn’t taken place yet. I am rereading the book for my children’s literature class and I am delighted to have another chance to further develop my perspective of this book…nod nod.