Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie // Book Review // The story of Peter Pan symbolizes childhood innocence weighed against the responsibilities of adulthood. Themes of family, the role of a mother, abandonment, fairness, jealousy, revenge, and the importance of imagination are interwoven throughout an adventure filled with fairies, pirates, mermaids and more. Peter is self-assured, a leader, cocky, nonchalant, thirsty for adventure and forgetful. I have wondered if Peter forgets his experiences in order to repeat his childhood and therefore not have the capacity to learn, grow and mature.
As a child, I grew up with Disney's adaptation of the story of Peter Pan. After all of these years, I decided that it was time to actually read Barrie's novel. As I traveled to and back from Neverland, I often found myself surprised, a bit shocked and yet openly entertained at Barrie's wit and humor as a variety of details emerged that were not present in Disney's antiseptic approach to the story of Peter Pan. George Bernard Shaw, a friend and neighbor of Barrie's, described the play as "ostensibly a holiday entertainment for children but really a play for grown-up people" and I can now see why. Although this book is classified as a children's book, I would not recommend it to be read to young children. In my opinion, the violence, language, poisoning, murder, loss or kidnapping of children and yes, even fairy orgies, are too extreme for children.
Scholars believe that a tragic event in Barrie's childhood inspired the creation of the character of Peter Pan. When Barrie was six years old, his thirteen year old brother, David, died in an ice skating accident. This experience devastated both Barrie and his mother. Barrie would often dress up in David's clothes and mimic David's whistling in an attempt to try to comfort his mother. In their hearts and minds, David would remain a forever child. It is so sad and unfortunate that Barrie experienced so much overwhelming grief at such a young age.