Peter Pan


J.M. Barrie

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Peter Pan: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Wendy, John and Michael fly for many days and nights in the direction of Neverland. They don’t know where they are but they closely follow Peter, who steals food for them out of birds’ mouths. They fly easily, though when they happen to fall asleep they drop straight down. Peter saves them carelessly at the last minute, to show off. They are even a little afraid that he might forget about them and abandon them, and they wouldn’t know how to find their way. He often seems to forget them after going off on an adventure, and they have to remind him who they are.
Peter has many inhuman powers, like the ability to communicate with fairies and the agility to steal from birds. But he also seems to lack many human powers. He likes Wendy and the two boys, but he cannot truly care if they live or die. He has poor memory because he has no sense of ordinary human time. Vast lengths of time contract into just moments for him, and anything but the current moment holds little meaning for him.
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Finally they approach the shores of Neverland. The sun is setting, and the sun’s rays are directing them to the darkening island. The children recognize the landscapes of their dreams, their huts, caves, and flamingoes. The sun is setting, and the island begins to seem very frightening and dangerous, as it does even at home when it is time to go to sleep. Peter becomes brightly alert in preparation for some violent adventure. He tells the children about the island’s crew of vicious pirates. They obey Captain Jas. Hook, a fearsome pirate with a hook for his right hand, which Peter chopped off once during a battle.
Neverland is a place made in many children’s imaginations. What is imagined becomes real there. Since the children recognize many of their own imaginings in the landscape, but also find much unfamiliar, we can infer that Neverland is a composite of all children’s imaginations, a mismatched, possibly endless place. Its dangers are internal dangers, the frightening things that crawl out of the imagination when it is left unguarded.
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Tinker Bell tells Peter that the pirates have seen them, and they’ve pulled out a big gun called the Long Tom. If Tinker Bell continues to light their way, the pirates will fire directly at them, but she cannot put out her light except when she is asleep. Finally, the children decide to conceal her in John’s hat. But soon enough, the pirates fire at them anyway, and the blast blows them apart. Peter drifts out to sea, Wendy shoots up with Tinker Bell, and the two boys fly somewhere else entirely. Tink decides to play an awful trick on Wendy, and Wendy follows her helplessly.
Neverland welcomes the children by trying to kill them. Children are fascinated by their own deaths, by the possibility of dying violently, and make up all sorts of monsters and villains. They are also fascinated by all games of hide-and-seek, by the possibility of being discovered. As often late at night, they are a tiny light trying to hide from the suddenly dark parts of their imagination.
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