Peter Pan

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Themes and Colors
Children and Heartlessness Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
The Fantastic and the Commonplace  Theme Icon
Fairness and Good Form  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Peter Pan, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Fairness and Good Form  Theme Icon

Fairness and good form are two names for Peter’s elusive quality of moral excellence, an excellence limited to various sorts of games. The narrator tends to prefer ‘fairness,’ and Hook, in his obsession with the British variant of aristocratic formality, names it ‘good form’. These two terms bookend the whole spectrum of Peter’s excellence: his insistence on “fighting fair,” on maintaining equality between opponents, on the one hand, and his blissful unselfconsciousness on the other: “Peter did not know in the least who or what he was, which is the very pinnacle of good form.” The two qualities fully come together in Peter’s last fight with Hook, where he maintains both perfect fairness (when Hook drops his sword, Peter graciously hands it him) and a sort of gallant nonchalance. Peter is arrogant at times, but during public contests or games he is overcome by a blind devotion to the principle of fairness, accompanied by a flash of indifference to himself. It ceases to matter how “wonderful” and exceptional he may be; he is simply a contestant acting in accordance with a certain idea of justice. His self-regard is replaced by respect for a social organizing principle—the rules of the game and of fairness.

It seems absurd for Hook to suspect Peter of ‘good form’ – compliance with social conventions – because Peter seems wild and unsocialized, like Mowgli from the Jungle Book. He runs away because he “wants always to have fun” – to do just what he feels like. He runs away to escape integrating into a society that would frequently force him to act against his will and his pleasure. How, then, does the prince of Neverland come to be so devoted to the notion of justice, a trait and consequence of civilization? Hook admires Peter because his fairness is not deliberate, but intuitive, internal and inevitable - “the very pinnacle of good form.” Peter takes himself out of civilization only to create one inside himself. To run away from one form of adulthood is to run face-first into another.

Fairness and Good Form ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Fairness and Good Form appears in each chapter of Peter Pan. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Fairness and Good Form Quotes in Peter Pan

Below you will find the important quotes in Peter Pan related to the theme of Fairness and Good Form .
Chapter 4 Quotes

Eventually Peter would dive through the air, and catch Michael just before he could strike the sea, and it was lovely the way he did it; but he always waited till the last moment, and you felt it was his cleverness that interested him and not the saving of human life.

Related Characters: Peter Pan , Michael
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

Peter Pan takes Wendy, Michael, and John off to Neverland, but when the children fall asleep, they fall to earth. Peter saves them whenever they fall--and yet he seems to be doing so just to show off. The children sense that he's more interested in proving that he's powerful and quick than he is in getting to know his new friends--indeed, the three children have to keep reminding him who they are.

The passage begins to suggest that Peter might not be as wonderful as he's cracked up to be: for all his superhuman powers, he's vain and narcissistic, and seems not to care about other people very much. Perhaps it's because so many of Peter's visitors grow up and abandon him that Peter has learned not to make close friends with anyone. Or perhaps Peter has just gotten used to being the unquestioned leader of the other boys and girls.


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Chapter 8 Quotes

Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed Peter. It made him quite helpless. He could only stare, horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly. All he thinks he has a right to when he comes to you to be yours is fairness. After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness; no one except Peter. He often met it, but he always forgot it. I suppose that was the real difference between him and all the rest.

Related Characters: Peter Pan
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Peter clashes with Captain Hook. Peter is fighting the Captain, but the Captain uses "dirty tricks" to hurt Peter. Peter is stunned that his opponent is cheating--cheating, Peter knows, is unfair. The narrator describes how most children never really get over the first time someone treats them unfairly--afterwards, they wise up and realize that life isn't fair. Peter, however, always forgets when people treat him unfairly--thus, he always remains a child.

The passage is interesting because it suggests that maturity comes with realizing that there is injustice in the world. Once a child realizes that he's been mistreated he starts to realize that he's not the center of the universe--that there are other people in the world, who are looking out for their own interests, and sometimes they act "unfairly." Peter, the eternal child, never has such an epiphany, and so he retains his pure moral compass, but he also never really matures.

Chapter 14 Quotes

Most disquieting reflection of all, was it not bad form to think about good form? His vitals were tortured by this problem. It was a claw within him sharper than the iron one.

Related Characters: Captain Jas. Hook
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn a little about Captain Hook's inner life. Hook thinks of himself as a fine, upstanding adult, trapped in a world of children. He's obsessed with rules and manners, and the highest praise he can think of is referring to something as "good form." But Hook has a problem: he can't think about "good form" without weighing the possibility that it's "bad form" even to think about "good form."

Hook's conundrum is a little bit nonsensical--and that's the point. Hook himself is a cartoonish parody of the adult world--too obsessed with manners, and too wrapped up in the contradictions of good behavior. The parody isn't particularly detailed or insightful (we're not told which rules of politeness Hook is so concerned about, for example) because Hook represents the adult world from the perspective of a child like Peter Pan. The core of the passage is that even though Hook aspires to be "good," relying on manners and politeness to do so, he can't escape the fact that he's an adult, and (unlike a child) can never be intuitively good without thinking about.

Chapter 15 Quotes

'Pan, who and what art thou?' he cried huskily.
'I'm youth, I'm joy,' Peter answered at a venture, 'I'm a little bird that has broken out of the egg.'
This, of course, was nonsense; but it was proof to the unhappy Hook that Peter did not know in the least who or what he was, which is the very pinnacle of good form.

Related Characters: Peter Pan (speaker), Captain Jas. Hook (speaker)
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Peter Pan and Captain Hook have their climactic "showdown." As he stabs Hook in the ribs, Peter tells Hook that he is the embodiment of joy and youth.

Peter's claims seem nonsensical--after all, we've seen that Peter can be selfish and narcissistic to the extreme. And yet Peter possesses an innate goodness and innocence simply because he's a young child--without any effort, he is a "good person."

The passage reinforces Captain Hook's greatest fear. As the embodiment of the adult world, Hook is obsessed with the question of how to be good and proper. But no matter how hard Hook tries, he'll never manage to be intuitively "good," as Peter is. For all his vanity, Hook can never match Peter's natural innocence and instinctive morality.

The other boys were flying around him now, flouting, scornful; and as he staggered about the deck striking up at them impotently, his mind was no longer with them; it was slouching in the playing fields of long ago, or being sent up for good, or watching the wall-game from a famous wall. And his shoes were right, and his waistcoat was right, and his tie was right, and his socks were right.

Related Characters: Captain Jas. Hook
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

In this poignant passage, Captain Hook--at this point wounded in the ribs, and sensing that he doesn't have long to live--imagines the days when he was only a child, long ago. Hook is surrounded by young boys who attack him, and furthermore, Hook seems unable to defend himself from the boys' attacks--Barrie notes that his sword is "impotent." As Hook draws closer and closer to death, he daydreams about his carefree youth.

To quote the movie The Wild Bunch, "We all dream of being a child again, even the worst of us. Maybe the worst most of all." Hook, in spite of his fanatical devotion to adult rules and laws, secretly wants to be a child--or at least to return to the natural "good form" of childhood. The passage's mention of Hook's dignified clothes is a little ambiguous, then--it's possible that his association of childhood with such order and formality means that he never really got to enjoy his own childhood freedom, or it could mean that for Hook, childhood's "good form" means that one's clothes are naturally "right," without having to try so hard.

Chapter 16 Quotes

He ceased to look at her, but even then she would not let go of him. He skipped about and made funny faces, but when he stopped it was just as if she were inside him, knocking.

Related Characters: Peter Pan , Mrs. Darling
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

Peter Pan flies to the Darlings' house, intending to shut the window so that Wendy will believe that her parents have forgotten her. But when Peter see Mrs. Darling crying herself to sleep, he's touched. He tries everything he can to makes Mrs. Darling cheer up--but nothing works. Her love for her children is so complete that she won't be happy until they return to her home.

The passage has Peter showing a rare flash of maturity--instead of selfishly tricking the Darling children into staying Neverland, he decides to let them rejoin their mother, recognizing that it's the right thing to do. Furthermore, Peter feels a little of Mrs. Darling "inside him," suggesting that, perhaps, he's developing the tiniest bit of self-awareness and maturity.