Mrs. Darling gives a startled shout when she sees the boy, and Nana runs into the room and growls. Peter quickly jumps out the window, but Nana traps his shadow by closing the window on it. Mrs. Darling folds it carefully into a drawer in the nursery in case he ever comes back for it.
An old superstition tells us that demons have no shadows. Peter Pan has a shadow, but it is detachable. The other characters do not seem to have detachable shadows, yet nobody is surprised to see one come off.
She doesn’t tell Mr. Darling about the shadow until the following Friday. The ill-fated evening begins in an ordinary way. Michael is refusing to take a bath, and Mrs. Darling is dressing for her evening out. Wendy and John are pretending to be Mr. and Mrs. Darling on the day of John’s birth. Mr. Darling comes in complaining about his tie, which he can’t get to tie properly, and Mrs. Darling ties it for him soothingly. Then they all dance around.
Children and childhood are the most important topics in this book, but the adults on the sidelines also seem to have a wonderful time. Is it the adultness of their daily life that is enjoyable, or the traces of childhood that remain in it? Similarly, do Wendy and John enjoy playing adult, or do they enjoy bringing childhood into adulthood?
Nana bumps into Mr. Darling and gets some hair on his pants, and he begins to criticize her capacities as a nurse. Nana has come in to give Michael his medicine. To encourage Michael to take it without complaint, Mr. Darling brags that he has always taken his medicine very bravely. Wendy helpfully suggests that Mr. Darling take his medicine along with Michael. Mr. Darling had hidden the medicine, because he hates it, but Wendy had found it and put it back in its place. He is unhappy to see Wendy bring it into the room. He promises to take it at the same time as Michael takes his; but when Michael swallows his spoonful, Mr. Darling hides his behind his back. Everyone is very disappointed.
Though Mr. Darling is balding, financially savvy, and a father of three, he sometimes has trouble acting properly adult. He is often silly, and he doubts that his family respects him. As an adult, he is meant to be extremely honorable and brave – braver than the toddler Michael. But his aversion to foul-tasting medicine is identical to Michael’s. He is supposed to pretend otherwise, but he can’t manage it. He and the children both dislike watching the child/adult distinction break down.
To distract from his embarrassment, Mr. Darling tries to play a clever trick. He pours his creamy-colored medicine into Nana’s bowl. Nana drinks a little and then gives Mr. Darling a very reproachful look. Everyone is angry with him, and he is angrily embarrassed, and finally he demands that Nana be tied up in the yard. He takes her out and ties her up himself, despite her anxious barking – she is afraid to leave the children unguarded, with a person like Peter Pan lurking around.
The difficult task of acting like an adult, and therefore ignoring the natural impulses of a child, leaves Mr. Darling with a very mixed-up sense of self-worth. Because he can never quite believe himself to be fully adult – and neither, he suspects, can the others – he has a chronic pain in his ego. Sometimes it becomes acute and he does mean and foolish things.
Mrs. Darling sadly puts the children to bed. Nana is barking loudly outside, and Wendy explains that the dog senses danger. Mrs. Darling is anxious, but she gathers herself, says goodnight, and leaves with Mr. Darling to a nearby party. When they are safely out of the way, the stars signal to Peter to come indoors.
Adult realism blinds the Darlings. The dog and the stars and the child know something the adults don’t know, or choose not to know, or are forced by their own adulthood not to know.