Peter Pan


J.M. Barrie

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Peter Pan: Similes 3 key examples

Definition of Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like" or "as," but can also... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often... read full definition
Chapter 3: Come Away, Come Away!
Explanation and Analysis—Like a Tinkle of Bells:

In Chapter 3, the narrator uses a simile to compare Tinker Bell's fairy language to the "tinkle of bells":

“The only sound I hear,” said Wendy, “is like a tinkle of bells.”

“Well, that's Tink, that's the fairy language. I think I hear her too.” The sound came from the chest of drawers, and Peter made a merry face.

Here, Wendy confuses Tinker Bell's words for the tinkle of bells. Out of all the children, Peter is the only one who can understand her, and he makes a cheerful face when he realizes that the sound does indeed indicate Tink's presence. This moment makes clear the separation between Wendy and Peter, who inhabit entirely different worlds and often fail to fully comprehend the other's experience. Wendy is a "normal" girl whereas Peter is a magical and immortal figure. Nonetheless, Wendy feels a "sudden thrill" to be in the presence of otherworldly creatures. Throughout Peter Pan, the narrator uses similes to compare aspects of Neverland to the real world in order to make this imaginary land easier to visualize. Most people know what a bell sounds like, so they can easily imagine what Tinker Bell sounds like when she speaks. This simile also gives insight into Tinker Bell's name; she is a tinker-fairy whose language sounds like a bell. 

Chapter 8: The Mermaids’ Lagoon
Explanation and Analysis—A Shudder Over the Sea:

In Chapter 8, the narrator compares a tremor of fear passing through Peter's body to "a shudder passing over the sea":

Peter was not quite like other boys; but he was afraid at last. A tremour ran through him, like a shudder passing over the sea; but on the sea one shudder follows another till there are hundreds of them, and Peter felt just the one. Next moment he was standing erect on the rock again, with that smile on his face and a drum beating within him. It was saying, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.”

This simile shows the enormity of Peter's fear. The ocean is a vast realm of the unknown. It can also be dangerous. Its combination of beauty and danger likewise reflects that of Neverland, whose incredible landscape contains murderous pirates and homeless children. However, the narrator makes sure to specify the difference between the shuddering sea and the tremulous Peter. Peter experiences just one tremor of fear, as opposed to the many waves that pass over the ocean. Then he promptly reassumes the attitude of confidence that defines his character and re-frames the possibility of death as simply another adventure. The way this simile appears in the novel serves two purposes; it first suggests that the fear Peter experiences is vast and deep, but its quick amendment reassures the reader that Peter remains the confident youth he has always been. This novel features many such moments; by letting readers look at characters' moments of vulnerability, the author permits deeper insight into their psyches than one might expect while reading a children's novel.

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Chapter 14: The Pirate Ship
Explanation and Analysis—A Cut Flower:

In Chapter 14, a simile comparing Captain Hook to a cut flower appears in a silent dialogue in Hook's own mind:

“To claw a man because he is good form, what would that be?”

“Bad form!”

The unhappy Hook was as impotent as he was damp, and he fell forward like a cut flower.

The simile "he fell forward like a cut flower" brings to mind the limp, damp deadness of a fallen plant. This seems like a humorous way to describe a terrifying pirate. Hook takes this fall at the mere idea that it would be "bad form" to hit Smee over the head. He realizes that the other men love Smee because he has "good form" and does not even realize it, which makes Hook feel left out and angry, and prompts him to "raise his iron hand over Smee's head." However, Hook does not bring his claw down upon Smee's head, as his own thoughts "arrest" him. 

Of course, this passage also serves as a humorous reference to Hook's defining characteristic – the absence of his right hand. Barrie often employs incongruous similes that compare a character to something that very loosely fits with their identity. Pirates and flowers are not commonly associated with one another; another example appears in Chapter 6 when Tootles stands "like a conqueror" over Wendy. After building up the terror and havoc wreaked by the pirates, the narrator continually cuts them down, exposing their weakness and fickleness of spirit. This simile not only exposes the inner mind of Captain Hook; it also shows that he is not quite as scary as he first seemed, as he can be felled by a mere thought. 

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