Sunday, April 21, 2024

Peter Pan


Mr. and Mrs. Darling are the proud parents of three wonderful children named Wendy, John, and Michael. Also part of the family are their nannies: a dog named Nana and a househelp by the name of Liza. The family lives a rather ordinary life in London without much fanfare, at least not until the arrival of Peter Pan. Peter Pan is a young boy who still has all his first teeth and is part of the Lost Boys, a tribe of youngsters like him who reside in Neverland. Peter visits Wendy’s room one night and convinces her, along with her brothers, to fly with him back to Neverland to be his and the Lost Boys’ mother. Despite the initial hesitation of Tinkerbell, Peter Pan’s fairy sidekick, they all make it back to Neverland and face off with Captain Hook, a villainous ship captain who has an axe to grind with the young boy.

This is an enjoyable read, short and silly most of the time. However, I found myself inexplicably a bit choked up and depressed as I reached the last few pages. Peter Pan has always been and will always be an ode to growing up, the character itself a personification of the refusal to become an adult. After all, isn’t that the biggest tragedy of the human condition: Leaving childhood behind along with the innocence that you know you will never ever regain? It is sad indeed, but that doesn’t make it any less true, yet makes it all the more relatable since nobody can really skip childhood, despite some having to leave it earlier by necessity.

Maybe this is also one of the charms of fiction aimed at children. I cannot remember when I first read Peter Pan. I don’t even know whether I even read it at all decades ago. I mean, the character has seen a lot of reincarnations in different mediums through the decades and is such a pop culture icon. In any case, you know a writer is good when (s)he can cater to both young and adult readers with the same material but having them leave with different takeaways from the story. The storyline might have been simple fantasy that tickled your imagination back in the day, a harmless fairytale that made your childhood happier.

As an adult, though, the story becomes more metaphorical and just hits you differently. Old Wendy’s inability to fly is a lonely metaphor for becoming an adult, Peter Pan himself representing that lost imagination, or innocence, or whatever lost gem of childhood that you could think of. Neverland is your good old made-up world that played a large role in your carefree existence before adulthood snatched you away from it, for good. That is the conclusion I ended up with after trying to come up with other theories that might give a better interpretation of the story but just didn’t.

As for the writing style, what you get is playful prose, perhaps owing to the original material being a stage play. The way the characters deal with one another is always theatrical and you can just feel the exaggeration trying to grab you through the written word. As such, it is a good read for children who have short attention spans. For the adult reader, it transports you back to your childhood, and the reminiscing that it results in is just as fun an experience as the reading. The characters are high-spirited most of the time, Tinkerbell standing out for being the tiny firebrand that she is. It is silly, but it makes sense.

The novel also comes across as an existential dilemma. Peter Pan does not seem to have a notion of a past or a future and can be argued as the personification of YOLO, a life without responsibilities focused only on the present. Of course, we all know that real life is simply not like this, and perhaps that is what Peter Pan really is, the stubborn holding on to an ideal that is neither realistic nor practical. Maybe that’s what makes it all the more tragic, because we all know that the boy is bound to be forever floating around with no awareness of his reality’s difference to those of the people around him, always ending up getting left behind.

In the end, Peter Pan will always be a gem and a worthy part of any child’s library. It is a tale that will never lose its appeal as long as we have children who remind us of the innocence and carefree days we have left and they will eventually leave behind.

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