Monday, December 13, 2004

Peter Pan

There is an interesting essay about Peter Pan at the TLS. It's only appropriate with the sudden surge, real or manufactured, in interest in J.M. Barrie and the non-Disneyfied version of Peter Pan. I have never read Peter Pan, just like I have never read The Wizard of Oz or The Jungle Book. I had all these books when I was a kid and would sometimes open them intending to read them, but there would always be something in it, usually a picture, that would send my imagination into dark, scary places. The book would quickly end up back on the shelf and I would move on to something a little less frigntening. The Times essay touches on several themes, one of them

why Peter Pan didn’t grow up. One of them was Jacqueline Rose’s brilliantly abrasive study, The Case of Peter Pan, or The Impossibility of Children’s Fiction (1984). It put the more sinister proposition that Peter Pan doesn’t grow up “because someone else prefers that he shouldn’t” – implicating not just Barrie in this, but all adults who watch or read Peter Pan, for accepting Barrie’s proffered licence to regard children – and childhood – from a voyeuristic standpoint. Five years earlier, The Lost Boys, Andrew Birkin’s biography examining Barrie’s relationship with the Llewelyn-Davies children, was published. It tells how J. M. Barrie’s tall, athletic older brother died in a skating accident at the age of thirteen, and of Barrie’s efforts to console his mother, and how Barrie barely grew thereafter.
That's ripe with material for analysis, isn't it? The essay also mentions that the movie, Finding Neverland changes some of the facts of Barrie's life to suit the movie. I haven't seen the movie yet, but it is good to know that things weren't exactly as it presents them. But then it's Hollywood, so why am I surprised?