Places: Peter Pan

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1928; first published as novel, Peter and Wendy, 1911

First produced: 1904

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Fairy tale

Time of work: Late nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Bloomsbury

*Bloomsbury. Peter PanFashionable district of London. James Barrie lived in Bloomsbury before achieving financial success, which is perhaps his reason for locating the home of the Darling family in a somewhat run-down section of the district. One of the place’s fantastic touches is the family’s Newfoundland dog, which acts as the children’s nurse.

Neverland

Neverland. Fantastical island home of Peter Pan and other parentless boys that the Darling children glimpse during the moment before they fall asleep. Thus, it is not a dream, but a physical analogue of the state between waking and sleeping, a condition when vivid fantasies can be shaped to fit one’s wishes. Barrie describes Neverland as a compact place for adventures, with wild Red Indians in the woods, mermaids in the lagoon, and pirates in the river. Because Neverland also condenses Earth’s seasons, the river is frozen in winter (appropriate to its evil inhabitants), while the lagoon and forest remain in summer.

Among the land’s inhabitants are fairies, seen as a series of lights projected on the stage; lost boys, who fell from their mothers’ perambulators as babies and were taken to Neverland by the fairies; and an assortment of animals, including a musical ostrich and a crocodile with a loudly ticking clock in its stomach.

Since the games of real children in London’s Kensington inspired the drama, Barrie writes that Peter first lived with the fairies there before they took him to Neverland. Indeed, Neverland itself combines the comfort and beauty of that park with characters and sites from the adventures the real children imagined they were having while in the Gardens. In Neverland, the lost boys’ cavern, with seven hollow trees as entrances, is a place of eternal play, threatened by Captain Hook, who in early drafts of the drama appears as a schoolmaster.

BibliographyBirkin, Andrew. J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: The Love Story That Gave Birth to Peter Pan. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1979. Collective biography of Barrie and the Davies family, told primarily through documentary evidence. Explores in considerable detail the significance of Barrie’s love for the boys and their mother for the writing of Peter Pan.Frey, Charles H., and John W. Griffith. The Literary Heritage of Childhood. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1987. Treats play as a fantasy that, against tradition, emphasizes its own distance from reality. Focuses on Neverland as a psychic map, simultaneously revealing unconscious desires (specifically, mother fixation) and attempting to deny those desires by shutting them out of the fantasy world.Geduld, Harry M. Sir James Barrie. Boston: Twayne, 1971. Clear account of the development of the Peter Pan story from Peter’s first appearance. Freudian interpretation of womb imagery and of Mr. Darling and Wendy.Hanson, Bruce K. The Peter Pan Chronicles: The Nearly One Hundred Year History of “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.” Secacaus, N.J.: Carol Publishing Group, 1993. Performance history of the play, with detailed discussions of the most famous productions. Organized around the performer playing Peter in various productions.Rose, Jacqueline. The Case of Peter Pan: Or, The Impossibility of Children’s Fiction. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993. Heavily theoretical analysis questions how the play constructs a child audience for the benefit of adult illusions about childhood.
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