When Peter had been tiptoeing through the forest, he saw the infamous crocodile creep by. When he noticed that it was no longer ticking, he himself began ticking, so that the hungry animals in the forest would become afraid of him and leave him in peace. Hearing the familiar sound, the crocodile followed silently after him. When Peter reached shore and started swimming to the ship he continued to tick, simply because he forgot to stop. Only when he saw the pirates quiet down fearfully did he realize that he was still ticking, and he felt very proud of his accidental cleverness.
Peter’s spirit-like, fateful quality is mostly his fearlessness and cleverness. He is like many other heroes, who seem inhuman but are not. Yet his particular form of power does have the quality of the inhuman, because it arises from an impossibility: from the carelessness and loveliness of having lived very little, and the deep sadness and weariness of having lived a long time (the simplest designations of a child and an adult).
By now, Peter has climbed up onto the boat. A pirate passes by him, and Peter kills him quickly. Slightly begins keeping count of the victims. Meanwhile, Peter quietly sneaks into the cabin. The other pirates notice that the ticking has stopped and Hook decides to resume the execution. He sends a pirate down into the cabin to get a “cat,” a complicated whip, and in a moment the pirates hear him scream horribly. They also hear a weird crowing sound. One peeks into the cabin and confirms that the pirate is dead. Another pirate dies in the same manner, and a fourth throws himself into the sea.
How can it be that Peter has both lived little and lived long? He has seen life repeat itself in dispiriting cycles almost endlessly, but he has forgotten its particulars: all that’s left is the residue, a sadness and toughness of spirit. It makes him an excellent and forgivable murderer. It also makes a person love him (think of his baby teeth) and fear him all at once, just as Hook does.
Now no other pirate is willing to enter the cabin, so Hook himself charges in. He comes out a minute later without his light, and obviously afraid. The other pirates mock him and suspect that the devil is involved. Finally Hook decides to send the children in to fight the mysterious intruder.
This is an interesting moment with regard to Peter’s idea of fairness. Peter has no qualms about murdering any number of pirates in the dark, but he spares Hook because the dark gives him an unfair advantage.
As the children enter the cabin, Peter unlocks their chains. Peter and the children then emerge from the cabin quietly. Peter sneaks over to Wendy, unties her, puts on her shawl, and takes her place. Then he crows again. The pirates think that the sound means all the boys have died and they begin to turn against Hook, who is exposing them to such unholy danger. To pacify them, Hook proposes that they drown Wendy, since a woman on a ship is always bad luck.
The supposed lawlessness of the pirate ship mimics the structures and habits of authoritarian nations. When the leader of a country becomes unpopular, and the country is in some sort of deep trouble, the leader will often deflect the people’s anger onto an innocent third party – a scapegoat. Here, the scapegoat is Wendy.
He approaches the person in the shawl, who reveals himself to be Peter. In that moment of shock, says the narrator, Hook’s “fierce heart broke.” Nevertheless, the boys and the pirates begin a bloody battle. In the confusion, most of the pirates are killed or drowned.
Peter is what Hook hates most. The specter of good form is what Hook fears most. If hatred is always a product of fear, then Hook must hate Peter as a pure symbol of good form.
The time has finally come for Peter to battle Hook. Peter is a wonderful swordsman, but Hook also fights excellently. For a while neither can touch the other, but then Peter stabs Hook through the ribs. The sight of his strange blood nauseates Hook and he drops his sword to the ground. Peter graciously invites Hook to pick it back up, and they resume fighting.
Hatred and fear are rejoined in this scene. Peter takes the shapes of a demon, a woman, and fate itself: since Peter is so terribly changeable, Hook begins to feel that good form is everywhere except in him, and anything except him. Hook's self-hatred is embodied in his nausea at his own blood.
Suddenly Hook asks Peter who he is. “I’m youth, I’m joy,” Peter answers, and Hook fears that this nonsense is a sign of good form. They fight again, but Hook is overcome with depression. All he wants is to see Peter show bad form. He lights an explosive strong enough to blow up the ship, but Peter simply throws it into the sea. Hook loses himself in memories of his youth, wide playing fields, and dignified clothes.
Peter’s is a lovely answer. It feels true on first reading, and so it should: it is, indeed, one part of Peter, the part he himself dreamt up when he first decided to run away and live with the fairies. But let’s put him back into context. He is blithely killing left and right. Hook is right: it is nonsense. And yet Peter believes it, and in doing so makes it true, and his unselfconsciousness in believing it is a kind of "good form," at least as Hook sees it. And Hook, in despair, thinks back to his own childhood.
At last, Hook tires of fighting and jumps up onto the side of the ship. Peter is flying at him, and Hook gestures for him to kick instead of striking; Peter grants his wish, and Hook falls into the ocean with the happy feeling that Peter finally showed bad form. The crocodile is waiting for Hook in the water. The boys are thrilled by their victories but even more so by “the lateness of the hour.” They soon fall asleep in the pirates’ beds. Peter, that night, has a very bad nightmare.
Wendy says: “It is only the gay and innocent and heartless who can fly.” Peter is very courteous to Hook at the end. He can be courteous to the man he is about to kill because he does not hate that man or fear him, or feel much of anything at all. He is playing a game and playing it fairly. Perhaps his nightmares are the pains of a conscience that can never quite emerge, or that has been eternally suppressed.