Any One Book: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Peter Pan

My only experience with Peter Pan has been the Disney film that everyone knows and loves. Being an avid reader since I was first able to recognise the weird shapes and squiggles that are letters, I’m very ashamed to say that the only Peter Pan reading I did was the Disney book that was published alongside the film.

And now that I’ve read the proper book I look back and lament. I wish I had read the story by J.M. Barrie as a child because it’s a magical book full of wonder and the narration of the story is sheer brilliance. Some of the scenes feel incredibly cinematic and the fact that the narrator invests emotionally in the tale rather than simply standing by and relating the events. Everything about the book makes it so incredible, especially that it seems so unique from anything else I’ve read.

When I first cracked open the cover of the book and began absorbing the very first words, I did not expect to become so submerged in the tale, so addicted to the writing and characters. I thought I knew the story of Peter Pan, but in truth it turned out that I barely knew anything about it. There’s a reason that Peter Pan has captured the imagination of so many people, inspiring films, and that reason is the endearing and enchanting characters.

Wendy is an exceptionally sensible girl, caring as well. The way she looks after her brothers and the rest of the Lost Boys immediately makes her very likeable, especially since the Lost Boys garner a lot of sympathy at not knowing their family and needing looking after. Peter Pan himself is incredibly arrogant, yet while this usually makes me not like a character there is a certain quality to the boy who never grows up that makes him loveable in spite of that arrogance. I think it’s because he is genuinely clueless and fun-loving and heroic.

Another great feature about the book is the fact that there are stories within the story, especially the time Peter saved Tiger Lily from the pirates. My favourite moment about that is the way the narrator described the scene when Peter is stuck on a rock, unable to fly away from the rising tide. Not only does it provide the literary world with the amazing quote that is “to die would be an awfully big adventure”, but it also provides a great example of how Barrie can make anything magical and entertaining. Peter Pan is stuck on a rock, very much without escape, yet he takes the time to admire what he believes to be a piece of paper floating in the water.

“Presently he noticed as an odd thing that it was undoubtedly out upon the lagoon with some definite purpose, for it was fighting the tide, and sometimes winning; and when it won, Peter, always sympathetic to the weaker side, could not help clapping; it was such a gallant piece of paper.” 

The way Peter supports anything that shows a bit of courage, even something supposedly as small as a bit of paper, is one of his most charming qualities. And the way Barrie is able to put so much character in an inanimate object is one of the reasons why this tale is so captivating. It shows how incredibly clever and well thought through the story is. Especially when Peter is out one night to get the time, and of course the only way to find out the time in Neverland is to wait by the crocodile until the clock he swallowed goes off!

Overall it’s a very, very imaginative book and I wish there were more like it, or at least that I had read more like it. No doubt in time I will, after all I do have Alice in Wonderland on my bookshelf.

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