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Explore the theme of escapism in Peter Pan

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Introduction

Explore the theme of escapism in Peter Pan. The theme of escapism is prominent in much children's literature. Frances Hodgson-Burnett's The Secret Garden is, like Peter Pan, an example of Edwardian children's literature. Both these novels are tales of escapism from real life into another world. There are also more recent examples of escapism in children's literature. In the 1950s C.S. Lewis invented Narnia, and in even more recent literature, Harry Potter escapes his everyday life to go to school at Hogwarts. J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, an early Edwardian novel, is one of the great classics of British children's literature and is, on the surface, a tale about a boy who refused to grow up. There is however, an underlying plot concerning a girl who must grow up. It is from this obligation that Barrie's Neverland acts as a form of escape. Throughout Peter Pan, there is little focus on the female characters. It is almost assumed that Wendy will grow up and become a Mother, as all daughters do. Although Neverland allows Wendy to escape from her home and from the domestic world she knows, she does not escape domesticity altogether. ...read more.

Middle

Carpenter in fact goes further than this by asserting that children must not grow up and claims that to visit Neverland "requires an act of belief that children cannot sustain as they grow up" (Carpenter p180). Peter himself seems to be of the opinion that it is only children, who can escape the drudgery of everyday life and claims, "I want always to be a little boy, and to have fun". Barrie's adventure story and his creation of such a magical hero seems to have achieved what so much children's literature had previously tried to do. Peter represents the shift from the Victorian perception of the child as a "moral icon" to "a craze for the child as a fun-loving playboy hero" (Wallshl�ger p111). Peter has no memory or emotion, and so "can live only for the moment" and experiences ecstasies that other children can never know (Wallshl�ger p117). Peter is an asexual child rather than a young man. Barrie himself was also somewhat sexless, and it is doubtful whether his marriage was ever consummated. This lack of sexuality and romantic relationship is represented well on stage as Peter is often played by an actress, and is therefore viewed as an androgynous figure. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is Barrie's unique "mix of ingredients" that has made Peter Pan such a well-loved story for so many years. It is, on one hand, a typical adventure story "laced with dreams of military glory", and on the other, a fantasy tale (Wallshl�ger p129). The play was a success from the very first performance in 1904 when the audience response was wildly enthusiastic. The creation of such vivid and memorable characters as Hook and the ticking crocodile has ensured Barrie's firm command of his reader's reactions and enabled him to take them to his secondary world, Neverland. This is, to the Darling children and others who read the story, both an enchanted other world and a dream reality which acts as an escape from their real lives. Peter Pan, while becoming the dream figure of an age that declined to grow up, also represents the beautiful, heavenly Victorian child as well as the fun loving boyish hero of Edwardian society. It Barrie's particular combination of fantasy and reality that has formed such a wonderful escape world for so many children and is ultimately "not just an imaginative creation by one man, but a public phenomenon" (Carpenter p170). ...read more.

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