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Peter Pan


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Year Published

Book Review

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Plot Summary

English children Wendy, John and Michael Darling live with their parents and their nurse, a dog named Nana. One night before the parents go out for the evening, Father gets angry and sends Nana outside. Since Nana is not in the room standing guard, a boy named Peter Pan and his fairy friend, Tinker Bell, fly through the nursery window.

Wendy wakes up, and Peter tells her about a place called Neverland. It is his home, a magical island where he can remain a child forever. John and Michael wake up, too, and Peter blows fairy dust on all of them so they can fly.

The Darling children accompany Peter to Neverland. Wendy agrees to be a mother to Peter and his band of lost boys. (These are boys who fell out of their prams when their nurses weren’t looking and, when unclaimed, were taken far away.)

At the jealous Tinker Bell’s suggestion, the lost boys inadvertently shoot Wendy with an arrow when she first approaches the island. She recovers quickly, and the Darling children enjoy life in Neverland. Wendy disciplines and cares for the boys, who often play in a lagoon surrounded by mermaids. The boys live underground for fear of pirates.

Although the boys consider Peter their father, he prefers to think of himself as Wendy’s son like the others. The cocky, adventurous boy wants nothing to do with growing up. He is oblivious to Tinker Bell’s and Wendy’s romantic affections for him.

Captain Hook is the cruel leader of the pirates. He hates Peter, who once severed Hook’s hand and flung it to a crocodile. The creature liked the hand so much, he continues to stalk Hook in hopes of devouring the rest of him. Hook also hates Peter for his cockiness.

When two of Hook’s men try to leave Indian princess Tiger Lily on Marooner’s Rock to drown, Peter impersonates Hook’s voice and persuades the pirates to set her free. This act earns him favor and worship from Tiger Lily’s tribe. He and Wendy get stuck on the rock, and Peter saves Wendy by attaching her to a kite. The Never bird, who cares for her young on the water, allows Peter to float to safety in her nest.

Wendy tells the boys stories of her mother so she and her brothers won’t forget Mrs. Darling and her kindness. Peter interjects that Wendy is wrong about mothers. His own, he says, forgot all about him and barred his window so he could not return.

Wendy and her brothers realize they don’t want to be forgotten, and Wendy decides they must go home immediately. The lost boys are upset by the idea, but Peter feigns indifference. Wendy invites all the boys home with them, saying her parents will adopt them. All but Peter agree to go.

Hook and his men attack the Indians in an effort to smoke out Peter Pan. Hook finds Peter sleeping alone and poisons the medicine Wendy asked him to take. The pirates capture Wendy and the lost boys and prepare to make the boys walk the plank.

Peter wakes up and decides to take his medicine. Tinker Bell warns him it’s been poisoned, but he doesn’t believe her. She takes it herself, nearly dying in an effort to save him. Tinker Bell is revived when enough children around the world express their belief in fairies. She and Peter sneak onto the ship, kill many pirates and save Wendy and the boys. Hook goes overboard, and the crocodile eats him.

Wendy and the boys leave Neverland. Peter and Tinker Bell secretly fly ahead of them to the Darling house. Peter plans to shut the window so Wendy will think her mother no longer wants her. He hopes this will make her return to Neverland. When Peter sees the extent of Mrs. Darling’s grief, he unbars the windows and flies away.

Wendy, John and Michael are happily reunited with their parents, who also agree to adopt the lost boys. The children all grow up. Wendy returns to Neverland periodically to help Peter with spring cleaning. As years pass, her daughter and granddaughter do the same.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

The Indian tribe calls Peter the “Great White Father” and prostrate themselves before him.

Authority Roles

The proud George Darling is overly concerned about others’ opinions. He’s particularly embarrassed to have a dog for a nanny and takes his anger out on Nana. He later demonstrates his regret for his behavior by staying in her kennel during the children’s absence.

The motherly Mrs. Darling dances around with the children, tells stories and sorts through their thoughts while they sleep. She’s eager to adopt the lost boys. Captain Hook treats his men like dogs and sometimes kills them for minor offenses. Peter says his own mother barred his window and forgot all about him after he was gone. He returned to find another boy asleep in his bed.

Profanity & Violence

Tinker Bell repeatedly calls Peter a “silly a–.” Pirates, Indians and Peter’s gang engage in many battles that result in fatalities. None of the violence is graphically depicted.

Sexual Content

Wendy gives Peter a kiss. Fairies climb over Peter on their way home from an orgy. (Note: An orgy at this writing meant a wild party or celebration, and didn’t imply a sexually unrestrained social gathering.)

Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments

Native Americans: Members of Neverland’s Native American tribe, named the Piccaninnies, are also called redskins or savages.

“To be completely human — with its full range of both practical and imaginative potentialities — and to grow up; these are in a sense contradictories. By growing up, by co-operating in social order . . . one has to curtail the imagination; by doing this one is obliged to give up so much that one becomes an unacceptably diminished person.” –J.M. Barrie on growing up and the inspiration for_ Peter Pan.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.