Sex roles, especially motherhood, are explored in Peter Pan. Peter convinces Wendy to come to Never Land so she can see a mermaid, but he really wants her to act as a mother to himself and the Lost Boys. She is to tell them stories, like her own mother tells to her. Though Wendy admits she has no experience playing a mother role, she imitates her own mother’s behavior and manages to win the boys over.
Peter is unwilling to play father to Wendy’s mother, however. He will accept the role if it is just ‘‘pretend,’’ but he is unwilling to accept actual responsibility. Though the exact role of ‘‘father’’ is not clearly defined in the play—Mr. Darling is more of a temperamental child than a nurturing, paternal figure—Peter is only willing to serve as the primary defender of the Lost Boys’ home, little more. He is more concerned with adventure, having fun, and fighting pirates—aspects that conveniently fit into his role as a protector. Peter does not understand what being a father means. John tells the other Lost Boys at one point, ‘‘He did not even know how to be a father till I showed him.’’ Peter tells Wendy, in roundabout fashion, that he only knows how to be a son, which frustrates other characters such as Tiger Lily.
Duty & Responsibility
Duty and responsibility—or a lack thereof— drive the actions of many characters in Peter Pan. Peter Pan wants to avoid all adult responsibility and goes to great lengths to achieve this goal. He refuses to play father to Wendy’s mother, uncomfortable even when pretending the role. In the end, when Wendy and her brothers decide to go back home, Peter will not let himself be adopted by the Darlings as the other Lost Boys are....
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