Title: Peter Pan by J.M Barrie
Genre: Children’s Fantasy/ Adventure
Rating: 4.5 Stars
*The edition I own is the Puffin Chalks version created by Penguin*
I recently read Peter Pan by J.M Barrie for my Reading and Writing Children’s Literature Course at University and to say I was surprised by the story would be an understatement. In fact I think my first feelings were this is weird, this is creepy…. This is definitely not Disney.
The book is rather different to the Disney film and it’s very interesting to compare the bits that were taken out for the animation or to see how the animation presented a scene, if you are interested in that element of classics and how they are interpreted then I would definitely recommend checking out Peter Pan. Firstly the main difference between Peter Pan the Disney version and the book version is the violence, whilst I wouldn’t say it is overly violent or explicit there is definitely an increase in some places for example Captain Hook kills one of his men for merely bumping into him.
Secondly the next difference would be Peter’s character himself, my first thoughts on Peter were does he have Alzheimer’s and is he a dictator? Which may be shocking to some people, it was for me. Whenever I thought about Peter Pan, I thought of the little boy who didn’t want to grow up and was friends with a fairy… He’s harmless and innocent right? Peter is actually described by Mrs. Darling as being an angel who travels alongside children who have died to take them to heaven aka Neverland. However whilst this theory is sort of debunked at the end, Peter Pan is definitely not a normal boy and he is often described as being cocky. My thoughts on him being a dictator came from the fact he was in control and he had this desire for power, he also made sure to make it a rule that none of the Lost Boys were allowed to look anything like him.
The Alzheimer’s theory actually came from his behaviour, Peter was very forgetful and would constantly need to be reminded of things. This aspect as well as the others all add a certain sense of depth to the book, Peter Pan is definitely more than just a children’s story and there is also hidden meanings to things that only adults would understand.
Despite all this and Peter’s cockiness throughout, the main goal and desire for each character in Neverland is for them to have a mother, whilst Hook is a pirate he isn’t focused on treasure he would rather steal Wendy and make her be his mother for that is far more precious. This element is a nice addition to the story and contextually it plays in with society being focused on the family.
In terms of parts of the book which shadow the social context of the era in which it was written, we get to see the patriarchal society through Mr. Darling’s behaviour. Mr Darling was a character which frustrated me if I’m honest, he was childish in places and gave a sense of seniority off in his speech. I got the vibe that he thought he was better than anybody else. One moment which is important in the book is when Michael needs to take his medicine, which I won’t spoil but from this scene the children do see their father in a new light.
Whilst the book does create a lot of questions and theories it is also still a great children’s read, Neverland is as magical as you can imagine and I got the sense of a serene place filled with children’s laughter. Of course the pirates needed to be there because their needs to be conflict and danger in order for there to be an adventure.
Rating Peter Pan is a rather difficult choice for me, I think I would say this is 4.5 Stars. I enjoyed my reading experience and I liked being able to compare this to its other adaptations. The book was also of a nice steady pace and I would definitely recommend it to anybody to check out. Peter Pan will leave you questioning, whilst it is enjoyable you question Peter’s character why he is forgetful, why he has this desire for power and why he is so against growing up.
The ending also gives you the sense that it is never-ending, for Peter returns when Wendy is grown up and takes her daughter to Neverland and so forth. Which makes you wonder if Mrs. Darling herself perhaps went to Neverland and forgot her experiences. I’m glad this was on my reading list for this year as without it I would of probably never picked it up and I would of missed out!
Have you read Peter Pan yourself or do you think you will? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
If you would be interested in hearing more reviews or my thoughts on any other books from my reading children’s literature then please let me know also. I love to discuss the theories I get from them and study from them.