What is the main conflict or problem in the book Peter Pan?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Peter Pan does not grow up, and this creates a poignant dilemma, for everyone around him does. Eventually, if Wendy is any example, the aging grown-ups and Peter become increasingly unable to understand each other. Peter, however, does not want to grow up. He embraces living in an endless boyhood of adventure, which necessitates always finding new, young companions. Further, his clinging to eternal childhood puts him at odds with, and makes him an outlier to, the rest of society.

Yet Peter's enormously vivid imagination allows him to will things into existence. He can fly, and he leads the Darling children on an exciting adventure. A thematic conflict is that of the tension between the child's imagination, which lights up the world, fills it with romance, and makes all things seem possible, and an adult's more measured and less creative but more responsible walk through life.

The main plot conflict arises when Captain Hook and his pirates kidnap the Darlings in revenge for Peter cutting off Hook's arm and feeding it to the crocodiles. This draws Peter into battle. The two adversaries, Peter and Captain Hook, finally square off.

nanmarc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The underlying conflict throughout Barrie's novel is that Peter Pan refuses to grow up. His desire to remain a child began on his first day of life and continues through the story's conclusion. Peter's character demonstrates a static version of childhood that is hesitant to grow or mature; he longs for a mother to tell bedtime stories to he and his friends, but he does not want to be nurtured in a meaningful way that will produce growth.

Wendy's character starkly contrasts that of Peter as she willingly accepts the role of mother to Peter and the lost boys. Her sense of responsibility manifests when she turns her back on Never Land and rejoins her family in London, and in the novel's conclusion she matures into a full-grown adult who can no longer see Peter or fly.

Other conflicts in the book include:

  • Captain Hook's ongoing rivalry with Peter Pan, and with the crocodile who took his hand
  • Tinker Bell's jealousy of Wendy, who assumes her previous role of mothering Peter
  • Peter's clash with his friends in wanting them to stay in Never Land under his terms of never growing up
litgeek2015 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main conflict in Peter Pan is that many characters in the story, primarily Peter, do not want to grow up. With growing up comes responsibilities and obligations. Although children also have their own obligations, like school (which Peter also does not cater to), adults clearly have more accountability and responsibility, and Peter Pan resists this.

Despite the fact that Peter does not wish to grow up, he is the leader of the Lost Boys and he does take on the rescues of several of his friends. He is not entirely without leadership traits or responsibility to his friends. 

In the real world we even refer to people who seem to be perpetually childlike as having a Peter Pan Complex, meaning that they also resist most things that come with adulthood and fully embrace the lifestyle, hobbies, and nostalgia of their childhood.

ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main conflict in Peter Pan is the conflict between growing up and keeping your innocence.  If we become so cynical that we no longer believe in the innocence of youth, we will forget how to fly.

skar5light | Student

as i see it, Peter is terrified of feelings. of any kind, and part of the transformation from boy to man is emotions; strong once such as pain, love, jealousy, and he, being a smart boy, is realizing that, but doesn't have the tools to deal with it so he's practically fighting himself. (Hook represents every bad feeling there is and peter See's him as an alter ago for all the adults in the world.) peter is proud, and See's feelings not only as the enemy, but as a great weakness. and if he's weak, then what is he worth? how could he survive?