Do you really know the real Peter Pan by JM Barrie?

Connaissez vous réellement le vrai Peter Pan de J.M. Barrie ?

A Saturday like no other because we are interested in this original Peter Pan. That of its creator JM Barrie.

Thanks to the Ecole Normale Supérieure d'Ulm for its dedicated seminar: Did Peter Pan grow up?

So, what do you know about the real Peter Pan? We'll tell you about it.

First written as a novel for adults, James W Barrie's Peter Pan entitled “The Little White Bird” in 1904 became a major work of children's literature from 1911 under the title “Peter and Wendy”. This version, today considered the best-known of Peter's stories, gradually becomes the Peter Pan we know. Adapted numerous times to the theater, to the cinema, to a musical comedy or even to a comic strip, the character of Peter Pan and the work became a real popular reference from the 1930s without ever becoming outdated.

A surprisingly subversive novel which relates the story of the adventures of the character Peter Pan in Neverland accompanied by the lost children, it finds its roots in children's moral literature inseparable from its own aesthetic and ideological issues. It is at the heart of the imagination of the island of never “Neverland” that most of Peter Pan's adventures are structured. A truly enclosed place, The “Land of Never”, an anamorphic and hostile space, refers to the aesthetics of the Robinsonades characterized in particular by the predominance of nature over man. With its caves, its forests, its wild animals, the work conceals natural and bestiary figures, elements relatively common to many works of children's literature.

The work of William Golding, although it cannot certainly be compared to children's literature, constitutes a major work dealing with the question of childhood and its education in direct connection with its environment. The wild island, a true place of trial and maturation, acquires, as in Barrie's novel, an essential role in the plot. More generally, we can emphasize the importance of the island motif in 19th century educational literature in Britain. This can be explained by the fact that Great Britain was a great colonialist empire and that insularity was seen as a mysterious and particularly romantic space. Barrie's work, although prior to the ecological and animalist issues that emerged in the United States in the 20th century, contains images that reflect the ambivalence of childhood's relationship with nature. In this mini dissertation, we will look at an analysis of the paradoxes and dysfunctions inherent in the existing relationship between the lost children and the island of Neverland.

Already in the etymology of the name of the character Peter Pan, there is an allusion to his proximity to his environment. Just as the lost children dressed “in bear skins that they killed with their own hands” (P43) continue to refer to a wild world that must be tamed. The supernaturalization of the island of Neverland invites children and readers to immerse themselves in a wild and complete nature, like Noah's ark. This nature seems harmonious, even in what it embodies of danger and death. Indeed, it seems to reintegrate the children into a natural sphere, in which they must venture, build themselves (as they build Wendy's house), fight, survive. Children are part of the food chain in that they hunt prey and are hunted by predators.

However, this harmony is immediately biased by a malaise present within nature itself. These discomforts take the form of metamorphoses and transmutations between humans and animals. This natural sphere is not protective and encompassing as one might have thought, but rather adulterating, empowering. She forces the departure.

Peter Pan, an ecological work?

Peter Pan is undeniably a plant figure. Its name evokes the mythological figure of the divinity Pan (in ancient Greek Πάν / Pán, “all”, formerly “countryman”, according to certain writings, or from πάειν / páein, “to graze”). True divinity of Nature, protector of shepherds and flocks,

Peter Pan embodies, according to some critics, an ecological figure particularly representative of children's eco-literature. However, this identification conceals paradoxes. An apparent harmony seems to link childhood and intimate nature. Certainly, this corresponds to the tradition of children's literature (Pinocchio, etc.), an altogether romantic tradition which places childhood in its original environment...But childhood remains threatened by this environment. In the manner of William Golding's work, Lord of the Flies, the age of childhood captive to the wild environment remains on borrowed time.

A story about childhood certainly but also about animality.

A real confusion of roles seems to disrupt the relationship between childhood and the animal. The functions attributed to the child and the animal seem constantly interchangeable. The child is sometimes animalized, described with the greatest bestiality. Conversely, the animal can be attributed true ethics and morality. This is particularly observable in the relationships between Nana and the Darling parents at the beginning of the novel, described in turn as grotesque beings going so far as to adopt animal behaviors (the father hides in the dog's kennel).

This inversion, like many others, confirms the idea that the reader is no longer able to know who is who. The passage with the large white bird is all the more representative of this interchangeability as the bird is named by the lost boys “Wendy”, subsequently hunted like prey with arrows (p.53): “This n “It’s not a bird, I think it’s a lady”. In addition, animal metaphors and comparisons are present in a multiplied manner in the text, among which we can recurrently cite the expression “Run like rabbits” associated with children whose actions are regularly borrowed from the register of animality (p .48). A real disenchantment of childhood for the benefit of survival reduces them to their simple natural instincts. Like the children in Golding's novel, childhood is greatly compromised.

Here for the analysis,

Now it's time to read.

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