Peter Pan

J.M. Barrie
Peter Pan
Background to the session
• The first session on Peter Pan looks at how
language sets up ideas about childhood that
might be surprising.
• This is especially true when claims about the text
are examined, namely that the book represents
an uncomplicated idea of childhood.
• For more on these ideas, please read The Case of
Peter Pan: Or the Impossibility of Children's
Fiction By Jacqueline Rose.
The history of the story
• The book was originally
called The Little White
• This was written in the
1902 as a fictionalised
version of Barrie's
relationship with the
Llewelyn Davies
• The character of Peter
Pan was based on Peter
Llewellyn Davies and
the God Pan.
• This character was next
used in the play Peter
Pan, or The Boy Who
Wouldn't Grow Up 1904
Other versions…
• This was later was
adapted and expanded
and published in 1911
as Peter and Wendy.
• Chapters 13–18 of The
Little White Bird were
republished in 1906 as
Peter Pan in Kensington
• Since this story has
appeared in many
versions – and often as
a play – the story has
been used as
• This is something that
we explored in the
second session on PP.
• Peter does not know his
parents. In Peter Pan in
Kensington Gardens,
Barrie wrote that Peter
left as an infant
• Seeing the window
closed and a new baby
in the house when he
returned some time
later, he assumed they
no longer wanted him.
• After Peter flew away to
Kensington Gardens, he
returned to find his
parents had forgotten
about him. They had
another child (the
gender of Peter's sibling
is revealed to be
another boy in Peter
and Wendy).
The inspiration for Peter Pan
• The Llewelyn Davies boys were
the sons of Arthur (1863–
1907) and Sylvia Llewelyn
Davies (1866–1910) (daughter
of cartoonist/writer George du
• Barrie became their guardian
following the middle-age
deaths of their parents, and
they were publicly associated
with Barrie and with Peter Pan
for the rest of their lives.
• They served as the inspiration
for the characters in Peter Pan
and the other boys of J. M.
Barrie's Neverland works, and
several of the main characters
were named after them.
• The three oldest served in the
British military in World War I.
Two of the brothers died in
their early twenties (one in
combat, the other drowning),
and a third committed suicide
when he was 63.
The ideas of Childhood that we
The book is complicated.
• Parental roles are
• Females are both
worshipped and ridiculed
• The beginning and the
ending are arbitrary.
• The questions about
mortality help to set up
nostalgia in the book
The book is funny.
• It offers parody and
• It ‘sounds’ like a pantomime
– with examples of
wordplay and direct
• The ongoing action implies
that the battles and
adventure will never stop.
This is how nostalgia is
located in the book.

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