I finished this book in perhaps the most appropriate way possible. As I crammed breakfast down my throat and gulped coffee, in preparation for another day at work. Even more appropriately, I read this in my childhood home, in the same bedroom that I once took flight from to that wonderful Neverland. Naturally, mine looked quite different from the one depicted in Peter Pan, but it’s essentially the same place.
I was a bit worried as I read this book. In the opening passages, I found myself favoring Mr. Darling, the father of Wendy, John, and Michael. He is a total kill joy, pitiful and a bit neurotic. But he needed order. He demanded discipline, and something about that felt right. These damn kids need to calm down, with their flying about the room and running amok. Mr. Darling spoke straight to the fledgling adult in me.
When the kids find Neverland, it only became worse for me. A far cry from when I read this as a child, Captain Hook, that evil figure right up there amongst the scariest literary monsters of my youth, had suddenly become a massively flawed hero. “You really should poison Peter Pan, Hook!” I thought. “Because you’re right. His boyish cockiness is extremely off putting, and the little bastard needs to be put in his place!” So there’s that, but also, Captain Hook’s obsessive contemplation of his impending death. Constantly he waits for the ticking of the clock to wind down, for the crocodile to approach and finish him off. I wish for the days when I was Peter Pan and thoughts like that, despite being as young as I am, weren’t so relatable.
But the last few passages of this book really hit home for me. It wrecked me in the way all children’s books should wreck adults. I imagine J. M. Barrie writing the end of Peter Pan with delight, knowing that perhaps the children listening to the their parents reading wouldn’t quite get why their loving ma or pa seemed so effected. As Wendy grows older, she forgets how to fly. “I’m ever so much more than twenty,” she tells Peter when he comes to whisk her away again. These types of adventures are done for Wendy, as they are for most adults who read this book. But Peter moves right along to Wendy’s daughter. It is time for her adventure, for youth doesn’t know how to stop. When we get older, we get to see it “wasted on the young.” Of course, it isn’t actually wasted on the young. That’s what youth is actually about. I feel you may have a difficult time discovering a book, as an adult, that demonstrates this idea so well as Peter Pan.
“I’m youth, I’m Joy!” Peter answered at a Venture. “I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.” How could anyone but the young spend their Youth so wisely?