Last Reviewed on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1049
Chapter 1: Peter Breaks Through
The first chapter of Peter Pan opens with the iconic line “All children, except one, grow up.” The narrator first introduces young Wendy—the oldest child of the Darling family—as she watches a flower bloom.
Mr. and Mrs. Darling are Wendy’s parents. Recounting their love story, the narrator explains that while many other men desired Mrs. Darling, Mr. Darling won her affection. They married and had three children: Wendy, John, and Michael. Additionally, the Darlings have a Newfoundland named Nana, whom they refer to as “quite treasure of a nurse.” The narrator then claims that “there never was a simpler happier family until the coming of Peter Pan.”
In their dreams, the children visit an imaginary land, the Neverlands. As Mrs. Darling embarks on “travels of her children’s minds,” Wendy describes Peter Pan to her mother. Mrs. Darling thinks he is a make-believe character that she vaguely remembers from her childhood and tells the children it is nonsense put in their heads by Nana. Wendy explains to her mother that Peter Pan visits the nursery at night; while her mother thinks she is just imagining things, the rustling leaves on Wendy’s bedside puzzle her. The chapter ends with Mrs. Darling dreaming of Peter Pan’s arrival in England from Neverland, and when she awakes, she recognizes his figure in the window.
Chapter 2: The Shadow
As soon as Peter arrives, Nana attacks him. Fearful he has died, Mrs. Darling goes to look for him, and when she returns, she sees Nana with a shadow in her mouth. The narrator then provides flashbacks to Wendy’s birth, then John’s, and then Michael’s. When Mr. and Mrs. Darling talk about the children, they address each other as Mother and Father. As they reminisce about Michael’s resistance to taking medicine, Michael calls his father “a cowardly custard,” because Mr. Darling hides his own medicine behind his back while Michael takes his. He then puts the medicine in Nana’s bowl, which makes Nana feel sad and Mr. Darling ashamed. He expresses jealousy toward Nana for receiving more affection from the children, drags her outside, and ties her up in the backyard. While Mr. and Mrs. Darling are on the street looking at the stars, they hear “the smallest of all the stars in the Milky Way” exclaim, “Now, Peter!”
Chapter 3: Come Away, Come Away!
Peter Pan looks for his shadow in the nursery with his fairy, Tinker Bell. Frustrated, Peter cries because he is unable to attach his shadow to his body, and he tries to stick it on with soap. Wendy awakes to see Peter, and they introduce themselves to one another. When he tells Wendy he does not have a mother, her instinct is to console him; but he tells her he doesn’t want a mother and is instead upset because he is unable to stick his shadow to his body. Wendy thus sews Peter’s shadow to him. Afterward, Peter exclaims how clever he is for sewing on his shadow, upsetting Wendy, as he has taken credit for her idea. Peter then approaches her and tells her that “one girl is more use than twenty boys.” Wendy finds this sentiment especially charming and offers to give him a kiss. As she leans forward to kiss Peter—who does not know what a kiss is—he puts an acorn button in her hand. Wendy responds by telling him she will “wear his kiss on a chain around her neck.”
Wendy asks Peter how old he is. He replies that he doesn’t know and that he never wants to grow up. She continues to ask him questions and is especially curious about fairies. Peter tells her that fairies are born out of a baby’s laughter and that every time a child says that they do not believe in fairies, a fairy dies. He also explains that “the tinker of bells” is the fairy language. As Peter realizes that he stuck Tinker Bell in a drawer, Wendy expresses excitement to meet her.
After Wendy questions Peter about his home, he tells her that he lives with “the lost boys,” who are abandoned children sent to Neverland. He expresses to her that the boys are lonely without any girls around. Wendy, enamored with the way Peter talks about girls, asks to kiss him again but refers to a kiss as a “thimble.” After she kisses him, Peter asks to give her a thimble, and while kissing Wendy, Tinker Bell pulls Wendy’s hair. Tinker Bell tells Peter she will pull Wendy’s hair every time Peter and Wendy kiss.
Wendy learns that Peter has been listening to Mrs. Darling’s stories from outside their bedroom window. As he overheard Mrs. Darling reading Cinderella to them, Peter became enamored with the story. He thus becomes overjoyed when Wendy tells him that Cinderella and the prince live happily ever after. Peter then tells Wendy that she should come with him to Neverland so she can share the ending to Cinderella to the other lost boys. She is flattered but fearful of flying and of leaving her mother. Peter insists to Wendy that if she comes with him, she can tuck the boys in at night and will be treated with respect. John, who has since woken up, asks Peter how to fly. He responds, “You just think lovely wonderful thoughts . . . until they lift you up in the air.” Peter then blows fairy dust on the three Darling children, which enables them to fly. He continues to convince Wendy, John, and Michael to come with him and Tinker Bell to Neverland, and he does so by enticing them with adventures with pirates and mermaids.
Meanwhile, Nana forces her way into the Darlings’ dinner party, signaling to the parents that something is wrong with the children. Immediately, Mr. and Mrs. Darling run out of the dinner party and onto the street. As they look into the nursery window from outside, they see the children flying around the room. The parents then race to the nursery to get to the children on time, but they are too late. The stars cause the window to swing open, and the children fly with Peter into the night sky.