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Critical ChildrenThe Use of Childhood in Ten Great Novels$
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Richard Locke

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231157834

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231157834.001.0001

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J. M. Barrie’s Eternal Narcissist

J. M. Barrie’s Eternal Narcissist

Peter Pan

(p.103) 4 J. M. Barrie’s Eternal Narcissist
Critical Children

Richard Locke

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan (1904). The literary and biographical origin of Peter Pan is Barrie's memoir of his mother, Margaret Ogilvy (1896), where he narrates his mother's inability to recover from his brother's death—her favorite son. For midcentury critic Peter Coveney, Peter Pan represents the late-nineteenth-century “cult of the child,” which “serves not to integrate childhood and adult experience, but to create a barrier of nostalgia and regret between childhood and the potential responses of adult life. The childhood indeed becomes a means of escape from the pressures of adult adjustment, a means of regression toward the irresponsibility of youth, childhood, infancy.” The play thus exhibits ambiguities, encompassing oppositions between life and death, past and eternal present, and time lost and time recovered.

Keywords:   J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan, Margaret Ogilvy, Peter Coveney, cult of the child, childhood, adult life

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