Peter Pan as a children’s book is very telling of its era and the role women and children were expected to play. As an adult, and a first time reader of this children’s book, I am honestly surprised that such depth lies within. In reading for tomorrow’s class, I came across ideas of socializing a child and the defining of motherhood and womanhood. In chapter 7 the boys and Wendy were “being made to fit the tree” and “once you fit great care must be taken to go on fitting, and this, as Wendy was to discover to her delight, keeps a whole family in perfect condition.” For me, these two lines represent socialization, and ideas about making sure both parents and children fit the environment or society.
The concept of defining motherhood and parenthood came into play for me in Chapter 7 as well. Here we see Wendy now being referred to as a mother, “Peter didn’t like mothers, except Wendy.” Additionally lines like, “Wendy would have a baby;” “these rampagiuos boys of hers…” and “Wendy snatched it from the hands of her children,” say something about the woman’s role. From this I gathered that a woman should have children, and that she must become a guardian and protect them at all cost. Wendy making the kids nap “while she sat beside them and looked important.” Not only does Wendy prevent them from bringing harm to themselves by eating Hook’s cakes, but she cares for them, tidies up after them and gathers her value from her role in the boys’ lives. Even Hook recognizes the boys’ love of a “mother” something it seems that he once knew and something the author confirms his pirates never knew, when they asked Hook what a mother is. Neverland is a land of never knowing a mother, it would seem, as their only examples of motherhood and what it means to have a mother came from a bird in the water still keeping her eggs warm and not flying away.
The ideas that parents are safety nets and an ever available resource for their offspring also arose when the author begins to discuss whether or not Wendy misses her parents. He writes, “She was certain they’d keep the window open for her to fly back by.”
Other interesting things for me:
The reminder that Peter didn’t like mothers, something that we are constantly reminded of through the chapters, yet, he likes Wendy. In the beginning we began to understand Peter as someone who did not want to grow up, not someone who didn’t like mothers. Understanding that mothers have children who grow up, did he never consider that the lost boys might now row up since they had a mother?
In the beginning we saw Wendy’s mother tidying up the children’s minds, putting the good things out to hang and folding the bad and evil in a tiny corner in the back of a drawer. Given that Hook’s pirates did not know what a mother was, and the lost boys could not remember a mother, I think it’s safe to assume that, that is why they are uncivilized and murderous. No one tidied their minds.