Peter resists adulthood because he resents it, not because he recognizes childhood as an idealized state of being. After all, he has been abandoned by an adult, namely his mother, and barred forever from maternal love. One of the very melancholy scenes in this novel is when Peter Pan describes how his mother shuts the windows and no longer waits for him, replacing him with another boy. This experience causes him to be quite cynical, I’m afraid, and rewrites his childhood as a perpetual, love-deprived limbo in which he refuses and is unable to grow up, forever suffering from this discontinuity or division of self in which the childish part of him, the part that still yearns for love and care, fails to reconcile with the part of that that is damaged, wounded by betrayal.
The fact that he tackles Hook every time they meet as if meeting him for the first time reflects this divided psyche. Peter’s resentment towards adult is symbolized by the animosity towards Captain Hook, a point I already addressed in my previous post. Peter attacks Hook, calls him a villain, and each and every single time engages Hook as a new enemy. It is curious that Peter learns nothing from his past confrontations with Hook and accumulates no knowledge about his enemy whatsoever. When Hook bites him, Peter is profoundly stunned by its unfairness–something, perhaps, he should have foreseen after fighting Hook numerous times before. But no, he reacts to it as if it’s the first one he’s been treated unfairly.
“Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly.”
Peter relives this profound unfairness every time he engages with an adult, whether it is an actual adult or just thoughts of an adult. His mother’s abandonment has permanently scarred him. Peter is never fully a child yet forever a child.
Is Peter’s final battle with Hook symbolic of his final confrontation with the notions of adulthood? After all, upon Hook’s defeat, the Lost Boys return to the real world with Wendy, Michael and John, eventually moving on to the next stages of life despite having been lost at Neverland with Peter. Peter is the only one left behind, and I suppose, because of his cynical disposition and worldview–he cannot accept a life in which he must grow up and turn into an adult. On one hand he resents it and refuses to become a treacherous adult. On the other, he’s not ready yet. He hasn’t been fully loved as a child–he’s been deprived of that opportunity by his mother’s abandonment. Perhaps without this love he can never become what one needs to become. Even if he grows up physically, his mind remains child-like, unnurtured, unloved. There’ll always be a void inside of him.
Anyway. I want to talk about the colonialism (or things reminiscent of) in Peter Pan. This is the one scene that puzzles me greatly. The stereotypical, extremely, stereotypical depiction of the Aboriginal people, or the “redskins” is strange to say the least. Does the author inherit this kind of attitude towards Aborigines or does he attempt to draw attention to it by exaggerating and satirizing it? Either way, I find it offensive, especially in the portrayal of Tiger Lily.
“Me Tiger Lily,” the lovely creature would reply. “Peter Pan save me, me his very nice friend. Me no let pirates hurt him.”
With Peter being the “great white father” and rescuing the redskin princess and all…what exactly is Barrie endorsing or refuting? I will need to research this, since I have only a basic understanding of colonialism.
I still haven’t got a chance to look at Wendy, Tinker Bell and Mrs. Darling. However, in terms of Wendy, things of the motherhood seem to greatly excite her, such as having a baby, sewing, or supervising children. Girls seem to have a completely different notion of adulthood than boys, as girls naturally “grow” into what they envision themselves as: a mother and a wife. What Peter tempts Wendy with to convince her to go to Neverland with him has been the chance to become the mother for the Lost Boys. This kind of role-playing or emulation of womanhood gives Wendy immense satisfaction. This novel seems to suggest that girls readily grow into adults, and “are too smart to get lost”, like boys, who are expected to make their own path–without a secure, conventional path like the girls.
I need to look at Tinker Bell! In the next post, maybe. I have a few other things to write at the moment.