Why did the stars just sit around and wink in Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The stars in Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie are under a strict punishment for something that happened a very long time ago--so long ago, in fact, that the oldest stars (which are quite old) do not know what it was they did. Now, all the stars can do is watch and wink. 

In chapter two of the novel, Mrs. Darling has misgivings about leaving her children and going to a party with her husband. She looks out the window of the nursery and the 

night was peppered with stars. They were crowding round the house, as if curious to see what was to take place there, but she did not notice this, nor that one or two of the smaller ones winked at her. 

Later, the narrator tells us that Mr. and Mrs. Darling leave the house for the party; they are the only ones out walking tonight, and all the stars watch them go. 

Stars are beautiful, but they may not take an active part in anything, they must just look on forever. It is a punishment put on them for something they did so long ago that no star now knows what it was. So the older ones have become glassy-eyed and seldom speak (winking is the star language), but the little ones still wonder. They are not really friendly to Peter, who had a mischievous way of stealing up behind them and trying to blow them out; but they are so fond of fun that they were on his side tonight, and anxious to get the grown-ups out of the way. So as soon as the door...closed on Mr. and Mrs. Darling there was a commotion in the firmament, and the smallest of all the stars in the Milky Way screamed out:

"Now, Peter!"

It is true the stars are not allowed to do anything but watch what happens below them, which is why they "just sit around and wink." This does not, however, keep them from being mischievous, at times. It is clear that the stars have decided to help Peter in his adventure with the Darling children, despite Peter's sometimes annoying behavior to them. The fact that there is a "commotion in the firmament" and one of the stars screams suggests that perhaps the stars can, occasionally, do just a little more than sit still and wink.