Last Reviewed on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1211
Chapter 16: The Return Home
The lost boys now sail the pirate ship, with Peter as their captain. While the ship is on its way to the Darlings’ house, the narrator assesses how Mrs. Darling will react when her children return.
Back at the Darling house, the nursery remains unchanged, except that Mr. Darling has moved Nana’s kennel, believing that his decision to chain Nana up outside led to the children’s disappearance. Mrs. Darling sleeps forlornly in a rocking chair in the night-nursery; unbeknownst to her, the children are on their way home, and only two miles away. As Mr. Darling arrives back home from work, she wakes from a dream in which her children return. While in Nana’s kennel, Mr. Darling asks Mrs. Darling to play a song on the piano for him to fall asleep to; when he asks her to close the window, she reminds him that they always have to leave the window open for when the children return.
After Mrs. Darling leaves the night nursery, Peter and Tinker Bell fly through the window. Peter’s plan is to bar the window so that Wendy will believe that her mother has shut them out. Peter “peeps into” the day nursery to see Mrs. Darling playing the piano. As Mrs. Darling begins to cry, Peter first seems frustrated that Wendy’s mother does not understand that Wendy is now his; however, feeling as if “she were inside him, knocking,” he unbars the window. Before flying away, he says to Tinker Bell, “we don’t want any silly mothers.”
Wendy, John, and Michael arrive at their home to find the window open. While Michael only vaguely remembers their nursery, Wendy and John excitedly remind him that they are home. The children see the kennel with their father inside of it, and soon after, they hear their mother’s piano in the other room. Rather than startle her with their return, Wendy reasons that they should get into their beds, so that when their mother comes in the morning, it will seem as if they had never left. However, because Mrs. Darling has become so used to seeing the children sleeping in her dreams, she does not react to seeing them in their beds. Alarmed that their mother may have forgotten them, each of the children springs up from bed to address her, but Mrs. Darling still believes she is dreaming when she hears their voices. The children then run to their mother, who ecstatically calls out to Mr. Darling. While the reunited family embraces, Peter watches from outside the window, seeing “the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.”
Chapter 17: When Wendy Grew Up
While the Darlings are reunited, the boys wait outside the house. When the boys meet Mrs. Darling, she agrees to take care of them. Mr. Darling is more hesitant, explaining that he does not want to be treated like “a cypher in his own house.” The boys reassure him that they do not believe he is a cypher, which makes Mr. Darling feel “absurdly gratified.”
Wendy approaches Peter as he grazes the window outside, and invites him in. Mrs. Darling introduces herself to Peter and tells him that she has adopted all of the other boys and would like to adopt him too. When she confirms to Peter that he would grow into a man under her care, he stubbornly refuses her offer. Mrs. Darling asks where Peter will go, and he tells her that he will live in Wendy’s house in Neverland with Tinker Bell. He wants Wendy to come with him, but when Wendy asks Mrs. Darling if she can, Mrs. Darling tells her, “I have got you home again, and I mean to keep you.” Mrs. Darling offers a solution, however: Wendy can visit Peter for one week a year to do his “spring cleaning.” Before he leaves, Wendy has Peter promise that he will not forget her before spring comes.
Peter arrives in the spring for Wendy’s annual visit to Neverland. Because of Peter’s lapsed perception of time, it feels to him as if no time has passed since he last saw her. When she asks him about Tinker Bell, he claims not to remember her, mentioning that he “expect[s] she is no more,” since fairies do not live long. However, when Peter does not return the next year, Michael suggests that perhaps Peter Pan is not real after all, although Peter does come back the following year—for the final time— without realizing that two years have actually passed.
Wendy and the boys grow into adults. Wendy marries and has a daughter named Jane, and Mrs. Darling and Nana have since passed away. Now living in the same house that she grew up in, Wendy tells Jane stories of her adventures with Peter Pan. Jane asks her mother why she can no longer fly, and Wendy responds that it is because she has grown up, and “only the gay and innocent and heartless” are able to fly. Wendy then tells Jane the story of when Peter Pan flew into their window and lost his shadow; Jane, who is already familiar with the story, points out details that her mother misses. As Wendy continues the story, Jane asks her what the last words that Peter spoke to her were. Wendy tells Jane that he told her to “always be waiting for [him]” but that he eventually forgot about her. Soon after, Jane asks Wendy what Peter’s crow sounds like, and after surprising Wendy with her own imitation, she tells her mother that she sometimes hears Peter’s crow in her dreams.
Suddenly, Peter flies through the window, startling Wendy. He looks the same as she remembers him, and without fully realizing how much time has passed since he last came to see her, Peter confirms that he is there to fly with her to Neverland for spring cleaning. Wendy tells Peter that she can no longer fly and, to his dismay, turns on the light so that he can see that she is now much older. When Peter cries that she promised not to grow up, Wendy assures him that she could not help it. After Wendy tells him that it is her daughter sleeping in the nearby bed, he sobs inconsolably on the floor, which wakes Jane. Jane and Peter speak, with Peter telling Jane that he has come to take “his mother” with him back to Neverland. When he tells her this, Jane claims that she knows the true reason why he is there and says that she has been waiting for him. Excited by Jane’s resemblance to Wendy, Peter exclaims that Jane is his mother. As Peter says goodbye to Wendy, Jane rises in the air with him toward the window, telling her mother that it is time for her to fly with Peter to Neverland to do his spring cleaning.
Wendy allows Jane to go, watching as she and Peter fly away into the starry night sky. As the book comes to a close, the narrator reveals that the generations of Darling children to come after Wendy—including Jane’s daughter, Margaret—continue to visit Peter in Neverland.
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