How is childhood represented in this story?
The children, Peter and Wendy, are discussed, and their characters are foreshadowed before they appear in the story. There is already strong evidence that their parents spoil them. The nursery cost half as much again as the rest of the house, but their father justified this extravagance on the basis that “nothing’s too good for our children.” When George and Lydia locked the nursery for a few hours a month ago to punish the children, they threw tantrums which their parents still recall.
The fact that the children spend all their time in artificial environments gives their childhood an ersatz, unreal quality. Apart from the nursery, they are described as attending a “special plastic carnival” across town. This lack of authenticity and contact with the natural world seems to have led to the frequent thoughts of death that give George and Lydia cause for concern.
When the children enter the story, they are described in highly artificial terms, eyes like agate marbles and smelling of ozone. They have ruined their appetites with junk food and their parents do not scold them for it. They quickly demonstrate their lack of respect for George and Lydia, who have taken a long time to realize what their offspring are really like. George eventually concludes:
Who was it said, “Children are carpets, they should be stepped on occasionally”? We've never lifted a hand. They're insufferable—let's admit it. They come and go when they like; they treat us as if we were offspring. They're spoiled and we're spoiled.
This realization comes too late. As David McClean notes, the children have already come to care much more for the nursery than for their parents, because it has spent more time entertaining them. The conclusion shows that the unnatural nature of Wendy and Peter’s spoiled, over-engineered childhood has led them to feel no natural affection whatsoever for the parents who gave them everything.
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