Peter Pan


J.M. Barrie

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Peter Pan: Style 1 key example

Chapter 1: Peter Breaks Through
Explanation and Analysis:

Peter Pan has a simple yet sophisticated style. It is simple because the prose does not take much effort to read. But the novel also seems quite sophisticated in its use of humor, imagination, and verbal irony. An author must have some level of sophistication to imagine an entirely separate world than his own, let alone describe it in terms that readers in the real world might understand. To this end, Barrie includes vivid imagery, long-winded descriptions of Neverland, and intense passages about characters' moments of internal struggle. 

Readers must also note the novel's continual emphasis on childhood. Barrie devotes some of his most moving passages to long, nostalgic descriptions of the virtues and (charming) vices of children. For instance, in Chapter 1, he describes the different fantasy-worlds in children's minds:

[...] Neverlands have a family resemblance, and if they stood in a row you could say of them that they have each other's nose, and so forth. On these magic shores children at play are forever beaching their coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more. 

This passage combines humor and nostalgia. The idea of a "family" of lands with noses—a good example of personification—seems very funny. But the idea that "we shall land no more," or that older readers no longer have access to the world of imagination, seems quite sad. This moment brings a heightened awareness of the value of childhood and reflects the changing values of Barrie's historical period, which happened as English attitudes shifted from strict and rigorous Victorian standards to a championing of childhood joy and innocence during the Edwardian period.