|Sir Walter Scott Monument|
|University of Edinburgh|
Like most Americans, my familiarity with Peter Pan comes from the image on the peanut butter jar, or the Disney animation, then later influenced by Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman. I also remember attending a Lyric Theater production back in high school. Had I ever actually read the book?
Sadly, I had to answer no. Time to remedy that.
Though the story itself was quite familiar, one element really surprised me: point of view. From the title,
Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children's minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can't) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtinesses and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind; and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.
Barrie even uses direct address in the form of second person “you” to speak directly to the reader. It is as if he is assuring us, don’t take this too seriously. The story you are about to hear is all in fun, no need to be worried, but do hold on tight because we are about to embark on a marvelous adventure.