I recently saw this book advertised in a store as “a beloved children’s tale”. I wasted no time in pointing out this error to the manager. Imagine my disbelief when he insisted Peter Pan is indeed a book for children! In a state of shock I suggested he might as well stock the kids’ section with copies of Dracula or The Shining. Our literary discussion became heated and a minor physical altercation ensued, before I was escorted off the premises by a security guard who obviously held as little concern for children’s welfare as the store manager did. With this kind of greedy, callous deception apparently the norm in the publishing business, please allow this review to also serve as a warning to parents considering buying this book.
If Peter Pan was written for children, I shudder to think what the average childhood must have been like in J. M. Barrie’s day. The story begins with the kidnapping of three siblings: Wendy, John and Michael. The perpetrators of this heinous crime are the title character—a flying boy from a faraway land—and a fairy named Tinkerbell. We immediately find out Peter Pan is psychotic; he shows up crying over his shadow, and then has it stitched onto his foot. He takes the children to Neverland, his homeland, where the story quickly warps into a disturbing mess of violence and lunacy. The author’s unhinged imagination leads him to explore such topics unfit for children as murder, attempted murder by drowning, attempted murder by poisoning, piracy, child abduction, savage animal attacks, chronomentrophobia and mealtime hallucinations. The children are returned to their parents in the end, but what psychological damage they (along with any young readers) have suffered is anyone’s guess.
While the story is unsuitable for children, adults will find it constantly entertaining, full of wonder and adventure. More than that, Peter Pan himself is a fascinating figure, exemplifying both triumph and tragedy. On the one hand, Peter is fearless, noble and carefree; he is the hero you’d like to imitate. On the other hand, he is self-absorbed and immature, clinging to his ways like an addict to his addiction. He refuses any offer of real happiness or love on account of the change and commitment involved, instead choosing to remain in perpetual boyhood, alone in his fantasy world. In this respect, according to my now ex-girlfriend, I am a lot like Peter Pan. Well, I’d like to point out to Stacy that just because I don’t have a job doesn’t mean I’m not working; I’ve almost finished my screenplay. Also, videogames are a popular form of entertainment these days, and it is not abnormal to play them five hours a day. Anyhow, I would hardly trust Stacy’s literary analysis skills; she is a veterinary assistant who is not as good a dancer as she thinks she is.
Peter Pan is a fun and thought-provoking ride that grown ups will love. I advise parents however, to consider the book’s nightmare potential before purchasing a copy for their kids. 7/10
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