Readers often say that the ticking crocodile represents time – specifically, the movement of time that begins and ends a human life: “the clock will run down, and then he’ll get you.” The crocodile is both vicious and innocent in his pursuit, innocent in obeying a natural impulse and vicious in the narrowness of his goal. His viciousness is the ticking of time in his belly, which seems both to impel him forward, like the gears of a machine, and to set the terms of his eventual satisfaction. The clock is the agent, and the crocodile an obedient vehicle. Hook interprets the crocodile this way too, and so he cowers before him as though the crocodile were fate itself, the sum of death and time. Hook is deathly afraid, but his fear also has something comforting about it, because falling into even the most malevolent arms is a little comforting. Fate ensures that each of us falls into place in some grand model of things, a finally clear map of “good” and “bad” form. So Hook believes. But we as readers know it was not time or fate that set the crocodile in motion – it was Peter, who fed him Hook’s arm. And the crocodile gets his full meal not when the clock runs down, but when Peter gives Hook a final shove. The crocodile’s symbolic function as time, fate, and the inevitable is Hook’s own invention, a trace of Hook's love for a vanished order. In the end, the crocodile’s only symbolic connection to fate is his passive compliance in fulfilling his savage goal of getting Hook. There is nothing sacred about the crocodile’s ticking: Peter can tick just as well and powerfully. What the crocodile, and Hook's belief in the crocodile's status as his fate, is that to impersonate fate is to become fate.
The Crocodile Symbol Timeline in Peter Pan
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Crocodile appears in Peter Pan. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5: The Island Come True
Chapter 8: The Mermaids’ Lagoon
Chapter 10: The Happy Home
Chapter 14: The Pirate Ship
Chapter 15: ‘Hook Or Me This Time’