Thursday, January 10, 2013

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie {Literary Delight}

School Library Journal's Top 100 Children's Novels #86

Genre: Classic Children's Fiction (7 and Up), Fantasy

The Recipe: This is the classic story by Barrie, based on his play, about the boy Peter Pan who would never grow up, his mischievous fairy Tinker Bell, and the three children who fly off with him to Neverland, Wendy, Michael and John. In the intriguing world of Neverland, the children encounter the evil pirate Captain Hook, the wild Indians, beautiful mermaids, the group of lost boys and of course, an alligator that ticks like a clock.

The Frosting and Sprinkles: I often end up not liking children's classics, so I found Peter Pan a pleasant surprise because I really enjoyed it.

I know the story well and yet I was fascinated by the story and all the symbolism. Peter Pan is more than a fun adventure story, but a exploration of growing up. I probably loved the symbolism more than the actual story, especially Barrie's use of light and dark and the childhood notions of playing with shadows. Peter losing his shadow seems like a silly plot point, but it's actually richly symbolic.

Barrie's writing is beautifully descriptive and poetic, which makes just reading his words enjoyable, regardless of the plot.

Overall, Peter Pan is a fun, magical read with many great themes to more deeply explore.

The Hair That Fell Into the Batter: The main aspect for which I do not care in Peter Pan is the same one I dislike in most Victorian literature-the absurdity. There are so many fun fantastical elements of the story, the absurdity in Wendy's "real world" just seemed out of place and not enjoyably ridiculous- a dog for a nanny, a father who is more infantile than the boy who refuses to grow up just to name a couple. The real world seemed more absurd than the fantasy...perhaps Barrie was trying to be ironic?

The characters are not very likeable. They are OK, but I found myself not really loving any of them. I found Peter annoying and had a hard time imagining why Wendy finds him so fascinating. He is supposed to be symbolic of the frivolity of childhood, but I get the sense he is supposed to tear Wendy away from wanting to be an adult. However, I found Peter so unappealing-he would make me WANT to be an adult!

Wendy is sweet, but she has no depth. She's sort of a silly ideal of a woman-always on the outskirts of the real adventure, only wanting to spend her time being a mother, or pining after Peter, or darning socks in her little house...didn't she go to Neverland because she was intrigued by never growing up? Why is she then the only character doing grown up things and not being exciting?

Tinkerbell is not the mischievous-yet-fun fairy Disney would like you to believe she is. She is a nasty murderous little gnat.

The adults, again ironically, are more immature than the children. Mrs. Darling is a shallow woman who kind of just floats on the surface while Mr. Darling loves his children, but is ridiculous and easily impassioned to either silliness or over-dramatic anger. In the play, Mr. Darling and Captain Hook are traditionally played by the same actor, which I find interesting.

My Rating:

 3.5 Out of 5 Cupcakes!
(I liked it)

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