“The story may be so compelling partly because of its attentiveness to reversibility. Childhood and adulthood, birth and death, boys and girls, dreams and waking life all persistently change places in the story. But they change places in such a way that they reinforce rather than dismantle the oppositions that confuse and distress us. Children do become adults; birth leads to death; boys and girls cannot effortlessly change roles; dreams remain distinct from waking life. Time moves ferociously forward.”
Amy Billone’s introduction to the 100th Anniversary Edition of Peter Pan perfectly summarizes what I thought about the book. Without her introduction I might have thought differently, but since I learned a little about J.M. Barrie’s childhood I realized that Peter Pan is more than just the protagonist in a fairy tale story.
“Just as his mother was perpetually haunted by her dead son, Barrie himself became preoccupied by a ghost child who kept returning to him from the other side of the grave. Most famously, this ghost appears in the shape of Peter Pan – a boy who materializes from the world of children’s dreams.”
I realized that Neverland was a reflection of the childhood J.M. Barrie wanted but was denied of, I could imagine the open window as the path to his mother’s memories of his dead brother, and I understood the feelings that Peter Pan felt for and against a mother who had forgotten about him.
“Some like Peter best and some like Wendy best, but I like her best.”
It was moving and interesting to think of the story as a re-telling of the author’s life. Although it is possible that I might be overthinking things I believe that, however you look or understand it, Peter Pan is one of those children’s books that, despite what they’re called, is actually for adults because they remind us who we were, what we’ve become, and how there’s always a child within us.