Peter Pan


J.M. Barrie

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Themes and Colors
Children and Heartlessness Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
The Fantastic and the Commonplace Theme Icon
Fairness and Good Form Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Peter Pan, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Motherhood Theme Icon

Peter Pan is the novel’s hero, a boy so charming and brave that even his enemies find it difficult not to love him. Yet it is Mrs. Darling whom the narrator loves best. And it seems as though everyone but Mrs. Darling is fixated on mothers: Wendy, who wants to become one, Peter, who wants not to need one, the lost boys, who want simply to know one, and even the pirates, who admit with a dash of longing that a mother is like a Never bird who would die to save her eggs. And all but Peter agree that a mother is a person miraculously gifted at measureless, selfless love. They know that motherhood’s dullest chores are all tuned to some sort of white magic, and that magic inspires in them a confused awe.

Mothers and children are bound by a painful symmetry, at once a likeness and a fierce deadlock. The sublime extreme of a mother’s love is an inversion of the sublime extreme of children’s indifference, children who are “ever ready, when novelty knocks, to desert their dearest ones.” The magic of motherly love is commensurate to children’s “heartless” magic, a likeness that creates deep sympathy between them. But the mother’s magic quietly transforms the child: a mother longs to change a creature incapable of love into a person who can return love, a person no longer “gay, innocent, and heartless,” a person who can no longer fly. Motherly magic envelops children’s magic and slowly, lovingly wears it away.

Peter distrusts mothers because he believes that his own mother betrayed him, but he dislikes them because they turn children into adults. “Keep back, lady,” he yells at Mrs. Darling: “no one is going to catch me and make me a man.” This an odd remark: one would assume time to be the primary culprit, along with schools and workdays. But Peter is wiser than he may seem, and less innocent. Peter dislikes mothers because he knows that, in loving his magic, they would eventually take it away. Mothers know this too, and it is this awful knowledge that makes us love them.

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Motherhood ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Motherhood appears in each chapter of Peter Pan. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Motherhood Quotes in Peter Pan

Below you will find the important quotes in Peter Pan related to the theme of Motherhood.
Chapter 1 Quotes

He got all of her, except the innermost box and the kiss. He never knew about the box, and in time he gave up trying for the kiss.

Related Characters: Mrs. Darling, Mr. Darling
Related Symbols: The Kiss
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day.

Related Characters: Mrs. Darling
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

She dreamt that the Neverland had come too near and that a strange boy had broken through from it. He did not alarm her, for she thought she had seen him before in the faces of many women who have no children.

Related Characters: Peter Pan, Mrs. Darling
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

'That doesn't matter,' said Peter, as if he were the only person present who knew all about it, though he was really the one who knew least. 'What we need is just a nice motherly person.'
'Oh dear!' Wendy said, 'you see I feel that is exactly what I am.'

Related Characters: Peter Pan (speaker), Wendy (speaker)
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

'You are so queer,' he said, frankly puzzled, 'and Tiger Lily is just the same. There is something she wants to be to me, but she says it is not my mother.'

Related Characters: Peter Pan (speaker), Wendy, Princess Tiger Lily
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

"See, dear brothers," says Wendy, pointing upwards, '"there is the window still standing open. Ah, now we are rewarded for our sublime faith in a mother's love."

Related Characters: Wendy (speaker), Mrs. Darling, John, Michael
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

Off we skip like the most heartless things in the world, which is what children are, but so attractive; and we have an entirely selfish time; and then when we have need of special attention we nobly return for it, confident that we shall be embraced instead of smacked.

Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

Thus children are ever ready, when novelty knocks, to desert their dearest ones.

Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

If she was too fond of her rubbishy children she couldn't help it. Look at her in her chair, where she has fallen asleep. The corner of her mouth, where one looks first, is almost withered up. Her hand moves restlessly on her breast as if she had a pain there. Some like Peter best and some like Wendy best, but I like her best.

Related Characters: Peter Pan, Wendy, Mrs. Darling
Related Symbols: The Kiss
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

He took Mrs. Darling's kiss with him. The kiss that had been for no one else Peter took quite easily. Funny. But she seemed satisfied.

Related Characters: Peter Pan, Mrs. Darling
Related Symbols: The Kiss
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis: