"Peter Pan" by J. M. Barrie

Thanks Mykle, for finding my Peter Pan cover!!!

First of all, if you are an American or British kid, you will almost surely already know this story. I didn't read it for that, but because Danny said it was a really weird, really good book. It was also very fast to read, and I felt like I had read most of it many times before due to my excessive watching of the Mary Martin version of it when I was little. After reading the book, I would say that the Mary Martin version is the best to capture the overall feeling of the book, the new version does okay too I think but I didn't really like the Peter - he seemed a bit slow to me. The most true to character version of Captain Hook was the one in "Hook", with Robin Williams (who I thought made the worst Pan by far). And basically the Disney version was just that: a Disney version of the story, which is much darker, much more tragic, and much better.

But the Mary Martin version is almost exactly the same as the play, except for the music (and I don't know why they had to make Peter Pan a girl....it didn't really work for me, even when I was a little girl and couldn't be sure). Many of the lines are exactly the same. I laughed out loud when Hook in the book says, "Someone fetch me out that doodle-do!" because I could picture that scene perfectly in my head, when Hook says exactly that in the film.

So, what I learned later was all about James Barrie's life, and how he had some kind of genetic condition where he didn't go through puberty as quickly as other people, so that throughout a lot of his life he had a high pitched, youngish sounding voice. He was also totally a boy at heart. He had a sad marriage, which I'm not sure how it ended, but then he "adopted" a family, which is actually somewhat creepy to me. He took an interest in playing with the little boys in the family (I think there were five?), and most of the characters in the book are based off his experiences with them. The Darlings are the parents, Peter Pan is partly him, partly just the symbol of "childhood" - most interesting though was how Captain Hook was him. I think he is actually a better representation of Sir Barrie than Peter Pan; they both are named "James", they both are sad when/that little kids grow up and don't love him ("No little children love me!"), they are both tragic, sad characters. Hook isn't really a bad guy, but you definitely fear him.

There are so many interesting weird themes developed in this book, I just don't understand why we have to read books like "The Scarlet Letter" or :::shudder:::: "The Catcher in the Rye" in High School. First of all, since most kids have a connection to this book somehow, they would be more willing to read it. Second of all, since everybody knows the plot, the teacher could actually write reading quizzes to test if they read, because there ARE things only in the novel that aren't anywhere else.

What I thought was the biggest difference was that in the Neverland of the story, you actually could die. NONE of the film portrayals show that the way the book does. The Neverland is a dangerous place where people kill and die, and you aren't just saved by magic fairy dust every time. And Peter Pan is probably the saddest, most tragic character of them all.

Plus, there's the whole back story of babies "running away" (implying death? It was written in 1911, very high infant mortality rates) and becoming "lost boys". Dark. Interesting. If I were an English teacher, I'd have my students read this.

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