PETER PAN AND SYMBOLISM

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David Elliott

David Sidwell

FA13 THEA 3720-001

Essay #7

PETER PAN AND SYMBOLISM

     For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.  While this statement is usually applied to the field of scientific study, in this case, it can be aptly applied to the theater.  In the early 1900’s, theatrical productions were predominately done in the genre of realism, a genre where plays tried to closely represent real life. But in 1904 J. M. Barrie wrote a play entitled Peter Pan, in the genre of symbolism, a genre quite opposite of realism.  In symbolism, emphasis is placed on the internal life of the characters, their dreams and fantasies.  Peter Pan is definitely a symbolic play, filled with dreams and fantasies.    The protagonist Peter, has decided he does want to grow up, he wants to live forever in Never land, and that he wants Wendy to live with him forever as his mother.  Peter Pan simply wants to remain a child forever.

Peter lives in a world filled with dreams and fantasies.  He flies to the window of the Darling’s home, so he can hear bedtime stories meant for the children who live there.  He becomes so involved in the stories, that one night his presence is nearly discovered by Mrs. Darling.  Peter barely escapes, but leaves his shadow behind.  Upon his return for his shadow, which Wendy so kindly reattaches, Peter learns that she is a great storyteller.  Peter invites Wendy to live with him in the fanciful Never land as his mother.

Wendy chooses to join Peter in Never land, she gathers her brothers and off they fly.  They participate with Peter in many big adventures, dreams ,and fantasies,  one of which is very dangerous.  Peter Pan nearly looses his life trying to save Tiger Lily from the pirates.  After this event, Wendy decides that she is falling in love with Peter.  But he assures her that he only has “son-like” feelings for her.  Wendy wants to return to her mother and real life.  As Wendy plans her reunion, Peter flies on ahead to the Darling home.

Peter tries to thwart Wendy’s return home, wishing to keep her eternally in Never land.  He puts iron bars across the windows of the Darling home, to make Wendy feel like her mother has forgotten her children.  But later when Peter hears of Mrs. Darling’s deep distress at loosing her children, he relents and removes the bars.  He flies off and later returns.  Mrs. Darling offers to adopt Peter.  But he declines, afraid they will “catch him and turn him into a man”.  Peter is still choosing a world of symbolism.

The delightful play, Peter Pan, is very symbolic.  Peter is full of dreams and fantasies:  he doesn’t want to grow up, he wants to live in Never land forever and he wants Wendy to be his mother forever.  This play is definitely not like the typical plays of the day which were filled with realism.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

 1.  Balakian, Anna (1967).  The Symbolist Movement:  a critical approach. Random House, New York, New York.

 2.  Baron, Christine and Engel, Manfred, ed. (2010). Realism/Anti-realism in the 20th-Century Literature. NL: Rodopi.

 3.  Birkin, Andrew (2003). J M Barrie & the Lost Boys. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.

4.  Hanson, Bruce K. (2011).  Peter Pan on Stage and Screen, 1904 – 2010.  McFarland Press, Jefferson, North Carolina.

5. Wilson, Edwin and Goldfarb, Alvin  (2012).  Living Theater:  History of the Theater. New York, New York:  McGraw – Hill

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ARTIFACT

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