Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie


In 2012, a survey revealed that 28% of all Young Adult books (conventionally categorized as fiction for 12-17 year-olds) was purchased by adults aged between 30 and 44. I thought this was a fascinating sign of the times (Gen-X anyway); like forty-year old cosplayers at Comicon or CEOs skateboarding to work or hipster moms folding up their Bugaboo strollers before jumping into the mosh pit. None of us want to grow up!


Adapted from J.M. Barrie’s play of the same name, Peter Pan is the much beloved story about a boy who refuses to grow up. We meet Peter and his fairy friend, Tinker Bell, thanks to the three Darling children: Wendy, John and Michael. When Peter comes to the Darling home one night to retrieve the shadow he left behind, the children awaken and he convinces them to fly with him to Neverland so that Wendy can become his mother. On the mysterious island, the Darling children are introduced to the Lost Boys, a rascaly band of five who have lost their parents, and eventually the children form their own family. The Darling children enjoy many adventures while on Neverland, including encounters with mermaids, the Piccaninny native tribe and a gripping confrontation with Peter’s archenemy, Captain Hook and his gang of pirates. Eventually the Darling children realize they have been away from home for too long and decide to return to their parents. Peter promises Wendy he will come back once a year for her, but he often forgets and one day when he returns to the Darling household, he is devastated to discover that Wendy has grown up.

A favourite from my childhood, I thought I would introduce the kids to the classic Disney adaptation of Peter Pan from 1953. The movie sticks closely to the original story, although unfortunately this includes some of the cringe-worthy sexist and racial stereotyping. I was worried about some of the violence, but felt the level was acceptable for my kids. As a musical, the movie is very entertaining and includes the very popular “You Can Fly” which my enchanted kids into wishing they could fly too. I thought it was interesting that in the opening credits, Disney acknowledges that the J.M. Barrie bequeathed the rights to Peter Pan to the Hospital for Sick Children in London.

Unlike some other children’s classics I have read as an adult, I relished Peter Pan’s energy and contagious spirit of adventure both in the book and the movie. Now that we’ve watched the movie, I can’t wait to read the book with my kids.

What stood out for me the most in Peter Pan was how Wendy Darling immediately took on a domestic role for all of the males. She was not only expected to be a motherly figure, telling bedtime stories and tucking Lost Boys into bed, but a housekeeper. Sometimes she never leaves the Neverland home because she’s too busy mending and misses out on some of the gallivanting Peter and the boys enjoy. Wendy happily takes on this role, but I suspect it is only because she hopes to win Peter’s love. Of course, Peter is too immature and busy being irresponsible to notice. At least in the movie, Wendy is not depicted in this manner.

Hard to believe over a hundred years after its publication in 1911, Peter Pan continues to excite the imagination of both young and old with the idea of a never-ending childhood. Although Peter Pan is a delightful classic book written for children, I think it can be enjoyed both by kids and grown-ups. What kid wouldn’t want to live on an island, swimming with mermaids and fighting pirates, with no adults and no expectation to grow up? Heck, what adult wouldn’t?

3/5 Stars

I read and watched Peter Pan as part of Doing Dewey’s Books 2 Movies Challenge.

7 comments on “Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

  1. Naomi
    September 12, 2014

    I love Peter Pan and a lot of the other old stories that got made into movies, but you’re right about the stereotypes. Whenever I watch old movies with my kids, I worry about what might be in it that I can’t remember. Even movies like The Parent Trap.


    • ebookclassics
      September 17, 2014

      The old-fashioned sexism and racism is terrible, but somehow the newer movies don’t seem to capture the same magic.


  2. Priya
    September 16, 2014

    I’ve never seen the Peter Pan movie. Whenever I think of Peter Pan, I think of Finding Neverland, that movie about how J.M. Barrie wrote the play. I love that movie. Have you seen it? I read the book when I was a kid, and halfway through only recently. I liked it a lot more back then, this time over I was kind of annoyed by the stereotyping!


    • ebookclassics
      September 17, 2014

      I really loved Finding Neverland too and thought it was a beautiful story. I really thought Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet had good chemistry. I find the classics are always a tough because of the stereotyping too.


  3. DoingDewey
    September 16, 2014

    This is definitely one of those classics which, as a modern reader, is obviously sexist and racist. Although I think the Disney movie is also a bit sexist and very racist, it sounds like the movie version you watched was much better. Aside from those flaws, it’s a fun story, so I’d be excited to check out that movie version 🙂


    • ebookclassics
      September 17, 2014

      I saw Hook with Robin Williams at the library this weekend which I had completely forgotten existed. I didn’t take it out, but I might next time. I’m pretty sure that’s an adaptation that won’t offend anyone.


  4. The Paperback Princess
    September 18, 2014

    I recently read this – I was familiar with the story obviously (thanks Disney!) but hadn’t ever read it. I LOVED it and can’t wait to read it to my kids one day.


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