Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Bloomsbury. Fashionable district of London. James Barrie lived in Bloomsbury before achieving financial success, which is perhaps his reason for locating the home of the Darling family in a somewhat run-down section of the district. One of the place’s fantastic touches is the family’s Newfoundland dog, which acts as the children’s nurse.
Neverland. Fantastical island home of Peter Pan and other parentless boys that the Darling children glimpse during the moment before they fall asleep. Thus, it is not a dream, but a physical analogue of the state between waking and sleeping, a condition when vivid fantasies can be shaped to fit one’s wishes. Barrie describes Neverland as a compact place for adventures, with wild Red Indians in the woods, mermaids in the lagoon, and pirates in the river. Because Neverland also condenses Earth’s seasons, the river is frozen in winter (appropriate to its evil inhabitants), while the lagoon and forest remain in summer.
Among the land’s inhabitants are fairies, seen as a series of lights projected on the stage; lost boys, who fell from their mothers’ perambulators as babies and were taken to Neverland by the fairies; and an assortment of animals, including a musical ostrich and a crocodile with a loudly ticking clock in its stomach.
Since the games of real children in London’s Kensington inspired the drama, Barrie writes that...
(The entire section is 307 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
At the turn of the twentieth century, Great Britain was a formidable world power, controlling territory on nearly every continent. Queen Victoria ruled the country from 1837 until her death in 1901, and her influence on Great Britain was still felt in 1904 though her son Edward VII was on the throne. The Edwardian era was extravagant for those with money, but the difference between the rich and the poor was a sharply divided line. Though the United States was still a developing nation, its industrial power gave it a burgeoning reputation.
While London was the center of several international markets, including currency and commodities, there was economic doubt and tension after years of prosperity due to the Industrial Revolution of the late-nineteenth century. Certain commodities suffered while others prospered. Farmers who grew grains did not do as well as dairy or fruit farmers. Industry moved towards consolidations and concentrations of power, but exports continued to fall. Still, London was the capital of finance and banking, and this market made up for the overall trade deficits in other areas. The national average income continued to increase, but the gap between classes continued to grow.
Despite wage increases, there was a movement among laborers in Great Britain to organize. Both skilled and unskilled workers joined unions in record numbers to address their concerns....
(The entire section is 501 words.)
Peter Pan is a children’s fantasy/adventure set in turn-of- the-century London and an imaginary place called Never Land. The action that takes place in London is focused in the nursery of the Darling household, located in the borough of Bloomsbury. Never Land is an island, and the action in these scenes takes place in the forest, including shelters both above and below ground; there is also a lagoon where mermaids swim. The other Never Land location is Captain Hook’s pirate ship, the Jolly Roger, where the play’s climactic battle takes place. These diverse settings emphasize the difference between reality and fantasy. Though the Darling household has a dog for a nanny (a slightly fantastic notion), the household is predominantly rooted in sober reality; order prevails within the home. In Never Land, there is no mature authority so the island features forest, lagoons, and pirate ships—things that appeal to a child’s sense of adventure and fun. There is very little order or responsibility; the Lost Boys and the pirates are dutiful followers of their respective leaders, but there is little organization beyond obedience on the field of battle.
(The entire section is 635 words.)
Compare and Contrast
1904: Child labor is common in both the United States and Great Britain but is a source of controversy. Legislation is proposed to regulate it, including laws that would require children to spend a certain amount of time in school.
Today: Child labor in American and England is highly restricted. Still, several American companies, including Nike, employ factories in developing countries to manufacture their goods at an extremely low cost. These factories often use child labor in sweatshop-like conditions.
1904: People flying in airplanes is an almost unheard-of concept. The Wright brothers made their first successful flight in 1903.
Today: Commercial air travel is common all over the world. Thousands of flights span the globe daily.
1904: Women comprise nearly one-third of the workforce in the United States. They are con- fined to certain jobs, mostly of a domestic nature, and receive low pay.
Today: Women comprise approximately half the workforce in the United States. While job opportunities are available in nearly every field, on average women make less than 80% of their male counterparts.
1904: Education has only recently been made compulsory in the United States and is still not required in Great Britain.
Today: Education, at least to age 16, is...
(The entire section is 206 words.)
Topics for Further Study
Compare and contrast the standardized dramatic text of Peter Pan (1928) with any of the novelizations of the Peter Pan story that Barrie wrote. How do the demands of the different literary forms affect the basic plot?
Research societal attitudes towards women and motherhood in turn-of-the-century England. How do these attitudes compare with the depictions of women in Peter Pan?
The rights to Peter Pan have been owned by Disney for a number of years. Research how the character and the story have been modified, particularly in reference to Disney’s immensely popular animated adaptation, since the debut of the stage play in 1904.
Compare and contrast the character of Wendy Darling in Peter Pan with Alice in Lewis Carroll’s children’s fantasy book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. How are their experiences in a fantastic land similar? Different? How does the fact that these characters are female affect their fantastic experiences?
(The entire section is 151 words.)
Peter Pan was adapted as a silent film in 1924. This version was released by Paramount and was directed by Herbert Brenon. It starred Betty Bronson as Peter Pan, Mary Brian as Wendy, and Virginia Brown Faire as Tinkerbell.
An full-length animated version was filmed in 1953. Released by Disney, it was directed by Clyde Geronimi and Wilfred Jackson. It featured the voices of Bobby Driscoll as Peter Pan, Kathryn Beaumont as Wendy, and Hans Conreid as both Captain Hook and Mr. Darling.
A live television version was performed on NBC in 1955, then done again live in 1956. Both versions featured Mary Martin as Peter Pan, Kathleen Nolan as Wendy, and Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook.
A made-for-television adaptation was shown on NBC in 1976. It featured Mia Farrow as Peter Pan and Danny Kaye as Captain Hook.
An animated television series based on the stage play was shown in syndication in 1990. Known as Peter Pan and the Pirates, it featured the voice of Tim Curry as Captain Hook and Jason Mardsen as Peter Pan.
(The entire section is 183 words.)
What Do I Read Next?
Mary Rose is a play written by Barrie in 1920. It concerns a woman who has returned home after living among fairies.
Charlotte’s Web, written by E. B. White in 1952, is a children’s novel that also deals with motherhood (in this case a spider who nurtures a young pig) as well as the perils of maturity.
The Little White Bird; Or, Adventures in Kensington Gardens, a novel written by Barrie in 1902, is a precursor to the story of Peter Pan.
Androcles and the Lion, a 1913 play by George Bernard Shaw is a children’s farce that was written as a direct response to Peter Pan.
The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up (1983) is a nonfiction book by Dan Kileya. It is a psychological analysis of males in the United States.
(The entire section is 134 words.)
Bibliography and Further Reading
Barrie, James. Peter Pan, Or, the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up, Scribner, 1928.
Beerbohm, Max. ‘‘The Child Barrie’’ in the Saturday Review, January 7, 1905, pp. 13-14.
Green, Roger Lancelyn. Fifty Years of Peter Pan, Peter Davies, 1954, pp. 2, 155.
Green, Roger Lancelyn. J. M. Barrie: A Walck Monograph, Henry Z. Walck, 1960, p. 34.
Jack, R. D. S. The Road to the Never Land: A Reassessment of J. M. Barrie’s Dramatic Art, Aberdeen University Press, pp. 167-68, 170.
Review of Peter Pan in The Illustrated London News, January 7, 1905.
Shout, John D. ‘‘From Nora Helmer to Wendy Darling: If You Believe in Heroines, Clap Your Hands’’ in Modern Drama, 1992, p. 360.
Barrie, James. Margaret Ogilvy, Scribner, 1896. This is a biography Barrie wrote about his mother. It offers considerable insight into the playwright’s psyche as well as the roots of his fascination with motherhood.
Birkin, Andrew. J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: The Love Story That Gave Birth to Peter Pan, Clarkson N. Potter, 1979. This book details the complex relationship between Barrie and the Davies family. It features pictures, letters, and other primary source information.
Jack, R. D. S. ‘‘The Manuscript of Peter...
(The entire section is 245 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Birkin, Andrew. J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: The Love Story That Gave Birth to Peter Pan. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1979. Collective biography of Barrie and the Davies family, told primarily through documentary evidence. Explores in considerable detail the significance of Barrie’s love for the boys and their mother for the writing of Peter Pan.
Frey, Charles H., and John W. Griffith. The Literary Heritage of Childhood. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1987. Treats play as a fantasy that, against tradition, emphasizes its own distance from reality. Focuses on Neverland as a psychic map, simultaneously revealing unconscious desires (specifically, mother fixation) and attempting to deny those desires by shutting them out of the fantasy world.
Geduld, Harry M. Sir James Barrie. Boston: Twayne, 1971. Clear account of the development of the Peter Pan story from Peter’s first appearance. Freudian interpretation of womb imagery and of Mr. Darling and Wendy.
Hanson, Bruce K. The Peter Pan Chronicles: The Nearly One Hundred Year History of “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.” Secacaus, N.J.: Carol Publishing Group, 1993. Performance history of the play, with detailed discussions of the most famous productions. Organized around the performer playing Peter in various productions....
(The entire section is 237 words.)