Why is Mrs. Darling tidying up her children's minds on page 6 of Peter Pan?

In chapter 1 ("Peter Breaks Through") of Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie describes Mrs. Darling as "tidying up her children's minds" as a means of describing her maternal instinct and deep sense of care for her children. This tidying is accomplished by cleaning out the mental cache that might be lingering within the minds of the Darling children before they go to bed at night—and is done so that "prettier thoughts" can be put on in the morning.

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Mrs. Darling is described as "tidying up her children's minds" in chapter 1 ("Peter Breaks Through") of Peter Pan as a means of explaining her maternal instincts and deep sense of care for her children. In this paragraph, J. M. Barrie writes as if this is a literal, physical task...

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Mrs. Darling is described as "tidying up her children's minds" in chapter 1 ("Peter Breaks Through") of Peter Pan as a means of explaining her maternal instincts and deep sense of care for her children. In this paragraph, J. M. Barrie writes as if this is a literal, physical task and an expected one at that—"the nightly custom of every good mother." He states that all mothers go about the job as if it involves cleaning out a drawer, describing how they would get down on their knees and sift through the mental images and thoughts of their children, organizing them so that the "naughtiness and evil passions" that lingered there before they went to bed had been pushed aside so that the "prettier thoughts" are ready to be put on in the morning.

Again, while these actions are described in literal terms, what this section of the book ultimately does is convey Mrs. Darling's style of mothering. She tidies her children's minds because she wants to (a) understand the inner workings of those she loves best, and (b) protect them from the worse parts of the world. In clearing out their mental "cache," she sets them up for sweeter sleep and a pleasant awakening in the morning. This perhaps is meant to explain the dreamy, worry-free experience of childhood.

It is additionally revealed at this point that the act of tidying up is what leads Mrs. Darling to first hear of Peter Pan. She notices the word "Peter" occasionally pops up within Michael and John's minds and is "scrawled all over" Wendy's mind. This also triggers Mrs. Darling to remember her own childhood stories of Peter Pan—the ageless boy who lives with fairies.

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