“That Disturbing Element”: Angel-Mother As Mermaid in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan

In this blogpost, Rosaleen Nolan shines a light into the darker corners of one of the most beloved nurseries in children’s literature…

 

“Wendy has not yet appeared, but she has been trying to come ever since that loyal nurse cast the humorous shadow of woman upon the scene and made us feel that it might be fun to let in a disturbing element” (Barrie Boy Castaways 84).

Despite a long and diverse career,[i] overwhelmingly the legacy of J.M. Barrie is inextricable from Peter Pan (1904). Primarily renowned for being the ‘troubled’ creator of this whimsical children’s drama, Barrie’s personal relationships even cast a shadow over his work. Yet possibly the only aspect of Peter Pan neglected by academic study is its presentation of ‘reality’. In the spaces of home enclosing this play, I will argue that Barrie exploits a cultural discourse prevalent throughout the long nineteenth-century, which positions the domestic world as an innately feminine space.

This gendered dichotomisation of the public (masculine) and private (feminine) spheres conveniently fits a late-Victorian/early-Edwardian narrative casting Barrie’s female characters as tragic, self-sacrificial heroines. Mrs Darling, Wendy and their daughters are seen to undergo a process of maturation that imposes a limit upon their worlds; their maternal and domestic instincts confine their ageing bodies to the nursery as, by way of contrast, Peter soars back to Neverland year after year. Yet, Roth surmises that; “despite the arguments put forth in almost every critical review and reading of the play . . . Peter Pan, [Barrie’s] most popular play and a hallmark of Edwardian boy-worship, begins and ends as the story of a little girl” (48; 52). Here, I argue that the Darling home is a space which simultaneously enshrines and deconstructs archetypes of femininity. A destabilising sub-narrative is threaded through the stage directions and non-verbal action of Barrie’s 1928 composite play-text; this alternative story offers a new perspective upon the conflicts, dangers and rebellions at work in that most sacred of domestic havens: the children’s nursery.

Flyleaf of *Peter Pan* edition, Museum of Childhood

A mid-c20th personalised copy of Barrie’s *Peter Pan* from the Museum archives


          
They sat thus night after night recalling that fatal Friday, till every detail of it was stamped on their brains and came through on the other side like the faces on a bad coinage . . . They would sit there in the empty nursery, recalling fondly every smallest detail of that dreadful evening (Barrie Peter and Wendy 15).

Peter and Wendy (1911) is the novelised version of Peter Pan, published seven years after the play’s debut in 1904 and seventeen years before any form of the theatrical production was published at all.[iii] Its appearance provided an opportunity for Barrie to return to third-person prose, and was instrumental in his revivification of the wealth of un-actable spatial detail employed but never fully elucidated in the play. By the time Barrie has effectively ‘re-wound’ his narration in the novel to the point at which the play opens, Peter and Wendy has already furnished the reader with a sense of foreboding that is less directly communicated in the nursery scenes of the 1904 production.

The novelist Barrie emphasises the ambiguous character of the nursery. His description states the existence of danger at the heart of an apparently functioning family; a room uncannily “empty” of children, riddled with “dreadful” retrospective knowledge of “fatal” events. If one returns to the play-text, the scene upon which the curtain rises in Act One bears a similarly ominous taint. As such, although early audiences settled in for the escapism of a “fairy play”,[iv] modern critics in possession of Barrie’s 1911 novel and 1928 play-text may locate for themselves an undercurrent of hostility in Peter Pan beneath the horseplay of the Darlings’ bedtime routine, and readable within the contours of the Edwardian home. Whilst the play  – whether acted as gently comedic children’s fantasy or as full-blown pantomime[v] – remains a stalwart of theatres’ festive programmes, by analysing Barrie’s extensive stage directions in the composite Uniform Text of productions from 1904 onwards there is arguably space for Peter Pan to be staged in a way that tells a rather less child-friendly tale. My analysis will demonstrate that the darkness discernible in elements of Peter and Wendy was present – if not often presented – in the stage version originally produced by Barrie seven years previously.

In the extract from Peter and Wendy, Mr and Mrs Darling are characterised as parents without a purpose. Self-castigating and remorseful, they remain listlessly in a nursery deprived of its raison d’etre. Similarly in Peter Pan, the child-specific setting of the nursery bolsters the message that parental devotion is nothing less than the martyrdom of individuality. When the children play as their parents (PP 89-90), the status endowed upon Mr and Mrs Darling as a new father or mother obliterates all other aspects of their identities, with their only accepted purpose to express joy at the expansion of their family.

Indeed, evidence of childish superiority litters the set in Act One. The siblings’ beds occupy both left and right sides of the stage (87), boasting “coverlets . . . made out of Mrs Darling’s wedding-gown” (88), whilst their clothing is strung across a fire-guard attended by, “two wooden soldiers, home-made, begun by Mr Darling, finished by Mrs Darling, repainted (unfortunately) by John Darling” (88). Overwhelmingly, the layout of the nursery reflects the idea that all available resources are channelled to the Darlings’ young family. The wedding dress representing one of Mrs Darling’s personal indulgences before motherhood is chopped into bedclothes, whilst the soldiers whittled by parental hands – and, significantly, finished by Mrs Darling – are sabotaged by a son who believes himself both capable of, and entitled to, improving upon their efforts.

In this way, the landscape of the Darling nursery is evocative of contemporaneous attitudes to children, with fin de siècle notions of parenting falling anywhere on a spectrum spanning over-indulgence to a deeply-entrenched (subconscious) bitterness.[vi] The scenes within the nursery stand as a paradigmatic display of the childish “despotism” upon the domestic stage (Chapman 136) that, “so many late Victorian and Edwardian adults” (136) found obnoxious. Furthermore, we may locate in Barrie’s characterisation of the Darlings an authorial disapproval of the cossetting and “oppressive” (Jack 178) tendencies of Edwardian parenting.

In a similar vein, Coats locates an “often-overlooked” hatred at the “core” of Peter Pan’s story (6). She argues that antipathy is expressed between Peter and Captain Hook insofar as those characters emblematise the oppositional states of man and boy – itself the apparently essential conflict of the story (4). Coats’ analysis, although thought-provoking, misidentifies the play’s source (and site) of tension. Certainly, critics have acknowledged the permeability of the nursery as a locus for danger,[vii] particularly as that danger consists in having Hook and Mr Darling interpreted as facets of one volatile personality.[viii] Within the domestic space Mr Darling’s overblown patriarchal tyranny is, indeed, intended to draw focus, exciting our exasperation, disgusted pity and eventual forgiveness. Yet a more critical reading of the nursery scenes which enclose the play reveals Mrs Darling to be the true source of disruption and antagonism when it comes to children in Peter Pan.

Elsewhere,[ix] I have alluded to the synchrony of ideas between Barrie and the philosopher Gaston Bachelard, whose Poetics of Space (1958) discusses the acute influence of domestic environment upon individual creativity and the formation of identity. In Peter Pan, the metaphors of home with which Barrie introduces Mrs Darling gesture towards the existence of a “secret psychological life” (Bachelard 78) alongside the mother-housewife role for which she is renowned:

[A]s she is going out to dinner tonight she is already wearing her evening gown because she knows her children like to see her in it. It is a delicious confection made by herself out of nothing and other people’s mistakes. She does not often go out to dinner, preferring when the children are in bed to sit beside them tidying up their minds just as if they were drawers. If Wendy and the boys could keep awake they might see her repacking into their proper places the many articles of the mind that have strayed during the day, lingering humourously over  some of their contents, wondering where on earth they have picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When they wake in the morning the naughtinesses with which they went to bed are not, alas, blown away, but they are placed at the bottom of the drawer; and on the top, beautifully aired, are their prettier thoughts ready for the new day. As she enters the room she is startled to see a strange little face outside the window and a hand groping as if it wanted to come in. (Barrie PP 89).

This entire section is “unactable whimsy” (Hollindale 312) which does not literally appear in the play; however, the domestic imagery with which Barrie saturates Mrs Darling develops a complexity to her character belying the cloying submissiveness of her dialogue. Seemingly, this description affirms her status as self-abnegating angel of the hearth, eschewing invitations to socialise in favour of sitting dutifully at the bedsides of her sleeping children; similarly to the fate met by her wedding dress, even Mrs Darling’s choice of clothing speaks of self-sacrifice as she selects a second-hand evening gown “because she knows [they] like to see her in it“. In wearing the gown, Mary Darling literally suppresses her individuality: the garment is a conscious refutation of self-expression as it recedes into “nothing and other people’s mistakes”.

Yet upon closer scrutiny, Barrie destabilises his own portrayal of Mrs Darling as an idealised wife and mother. Whilst her drawer-tidying may be expressed onstage as little more than the solicitous bustle of her evening routine, by employing the spatial metaphors of furniture her angelic domesticity is made furtive and – consequently  – problematic. Bachelard categorises drawers of the home as, “hiding places in which human beings . . . keep or hide their secrets” (73); indeed, Barrie deliberately characterises Mrs Darling as the arbiter of secrecy within the house as she not only tidies the minds of her children, but actively assesses and conceals their secrets for her own (unclear) purposes. Her maternal attentiveness is exposed as a usurpation of privacy and household power, since not only is she endowed with the capacity to romanticise or sanitise the manner in which her children are presented to the world; she is the only character in possession of the most damning truths of their inner psychological lives. That Mrs Darling’s omniscience has an ulterior motive becomes clear with the assertion that she does not cleanse or reform the children’s “naughtinesses” but stores them “at the bottom of the drawer” – where, presumably, only she may control them.

Mrs Darling’s maternal duplicity is most strongly suggested by her conscious acknowledgment of Peter Pan. Her glimpse of the “strange little face at the window” is not an isolated incident; she confides that, “this is not the first time I have seen that boy . . . [T]he first time was a week ago” (92). Mrs Darling speaks of her enduring disquiet to her husband, yet her solution to the recurrent riddle of an otherworldly intruder is not to stay at home that evening so as to protect her precious babies, but to impress upon Mr Darling the need to keep their canine nanny – whom he promptly exiles to the garden in a fit of piqué.  Upon leaving for the soirée, Mrs Darling’s dialogue ventriloquises that of a conventional concerned mother. Her response to Michael when he asks if any harm can befall them “after the night-lights are lit” (97) is less an assurance of protection than an admission of the panoptical power she possesses within the domestic space: “MRS DARLING: Nothing, precious. They are the eyes a mother leaves behind her to guard her children . . . (with a last look round, her hand on the switch) Dear night-lights that protect my sleeping babes, burn clear and steadfast to-night” (97).

Just as Bachelard argues for the image of the solitary lamplit window functioning as as the house’s eye (34-5),  Mrs Darling bestows humanity upon the night-lights by designating them to be the eyes of a mother. Bachelard notes that, “[t]hrough its light alone, the house becomes human. It sees like a man. It has an eye open to night” (35); the obvious extension here is that the Darling house not only sees like a woman, but is entirely subject to feminine control. The mother who regulates her children’s most intimate desires and emotions; the wife who foresees and diffuses the melodramas of her husband: Mrs Darling as all-seeing and all-knowing authority of the home-space uses her parting words not to protect her offspring from danger, but to summon that danger into the space she  – and only she  – oversees. As such, if the night-lights of the nursery are an extension of the maternal gaze, the darkness which immediately follows Mrs Darling’s very knowing departure is the act of a mother closing her eyes to the menace she has invited into her home. As the night lights blink into darkness, Act One builds to a ‘magical’ crescendo, beginning with the entrance of Tinker Bell and Peter Pan, seeking to be reunited with his shadow.

The literal drawer in which Peter’s shadow is held captive after Mrs Darling “rolled it up” (PP 92) constitutes an arena in which the intersecting desires of unconventional womanhood are conflicted between seeking to suppress or unshackle deviance. Interestingly, the metaphorical meaning of the shadow itself evolves throughout Act One, with its first appearance suggesting that it is little more than an intangible manifestation of mischief (PP 93). However, by sequestering the shadow in the drawers of the nursery, Mrs Darling silently aligns the dark essence of Peter with the earlier “naughtinesses” that she buries deep within the psychological drawers of her sleeping children. With the casual staging instruction that Peter “wafts himself to the drawer and scatters its contents to the floor” (97), Mrs Darling’s motivation in hiding, rather than expunging, the troublesome thoughts of her children is revealed. As the shadow swoops free from its incarceration within the drawer, the transgressive dreams of her children are also symbolically exhumed. The unutterable thoughts that she discerns within her innocent offspring are, ultimately, made manifest as a full-bodied Peter Pan restored to optimum strength and iniquity.

This analysis of Mrs Darling is intended to liberate her often overlooked role, repositioning the somewhat extraneous wife and mother as a source of power who subverts the Edwardian heteronormative mores she appears to exemplify within the domestic sphere. Morse has produced a compelling reading of Mrs Darling as a woman “in unconscious conflict with Victorian social expectations” (282) which, although attributing new depth to a character normally “of little interest to critics beyond her possible role as the object of Peter Pan’s Oedipal desires”, does not give Barrie sufficient credit for his purposeful cultivation of Mrs Darling’s atypicality. Auerbach has alighted upon an alternative terminology which better defines this complex, enigmatic turn-of-the-century womanhood: “Angels were thought to be self-sacrificial by nature: in this cautiously diluted form, they were pious emblems of a good woman’s submergence in her family. Mermaids on the other hand, submerge themselves not to negate their power but to conceal it” (7).

Mrs Darling’s liminality, reinforced by her relationship to objects within the night nursery, problematises any understanding of her role in Peter Pan as a “good woman” who is “[submerged] in her family”. Indeed, far from embodying the “self-sacrificial” qualities of a domestic angel, the sacrifices she makes (like Auerbach’s mermaids) serve to conceal her own agenda; namely, facilitating the exposure of her children to the anarchic influence that is Peter, and their subsequent removal from the home. Whilst Barrie’s use of mythical allusions in Peter’s adventures has been fruitfully documented,[x] as yet the connection between fin-de-siecle women as figurative ‘mermaids’ and the literally sirenic appeal of Neverland’s Mermaid Lagoon, has remained unexplored. Hollindale accounts for this lack of critical focus: “The Mermaids’ Lagoon . . . Act was added to the play in its second season . . . [b]ecause the change of set was complicated, it necessitated a ‘front-cloth scene’ to fill the gap” (317).

The original front-cloth scene  – featuring interplay between the Lost Boys, the Indians and Hook  –  was replaced by the lagoon scene permanently, following a less-than-enthusiastic reception of the former throughout Peter Pan’s first season (317). As far as this rationale is concerned, then, Barrie’s introduction of the mermaids in Neverland does little more than provide a convenient  yet titillating spectacle to distract from scene-change machinations on the main stage behind the cloth. Given the cultural currency of the siren in the late nineteenth-century (the Victorians’ “art slithered with images of a mermaid” [Auerbach Woman 7] and her fellow “serpent-women and lamias who proliferate in the Victorian imagination” [8]), the manner of their inclusion seems almost gratuitous. Moreover, the Neverland mermaids appear onstage only momentarily, seemingly to further emphasise the intersection of desire, danger and unknowability represented by their hybridised bodies (PP 118).

However, the mermaid does appear elsewhere in Peter Pan, in a scene which simultaneously attributes new meaning to their presence in Act Three and affirms Barrie’s profoundly sympathetic position regarding ‘unconventional’ womanhood. In 1908, Barrie adduced a new ending to the play which – despite being performed only once – proved sufficiently influential to his concept of the story that it was incorporated into Peter and Wendy three years later.[xi] When Wendy Grew Up: An Afterthought follows on from the play’s original closing scene, which takes place a year after the Darling children’s adventure and ends on a poignant tableau of Peter in the treetops of Neverland playing a melody on his pipes. In that version, Wendy exits the play still a child but one who is noticeably ageing. In the Afterthought however, Wendy occupies the maternal role formerly helmed by Mrs Darling. Green describes the framing of the Afterthought in 1908, noting the appearance of a small figure in a nightgown who proclaimed herself to be a “Baby Mermaid” tasked by Barrie with staging for “the first and only time . . . what happened to Peter when Wendy grew up” (110).

As the curtain rises upon the “same nursery” (Barrie Afterthought 157), Wendy’s daughter Jane occupies Michael’s bed, begging for the stories of Peter and Neverland which are embedded in the very textures of this room. This spatial and thematic continuity is laboured in Barrie’s stage instructions for a incident later in the scene, when Peter sobs “on the same spot as when crying about Shadow in Act I” (162). Furthermore, believing Jane to be asleep, Wendy performs a recognisable domestic ritual: as she removes clothes from the wash screen and “leisurely, folds and puts them away“(160) she retraces the steps of her own mother, ordering the less palatable thoughts of her children’s minds in the nursery of Act One. As Wendy “puts down light and sits by the fire to sew” (160) the vision expresses a duality evocative of Mrs Darling’s own. Wendy, too,  is the embodiment of idealised feminine industry as an angel of the hearth; at the same time, the work of her needle exemplifies the subversive creativity of sirenic womanhood.[xii] Like her mother before her, Wendy is submerged in the concerns of home, but seeks the liberation of transmitting her own story through domestic artistry. Fittingly, Wendy’s taking up of the needle invites Peter’s return after an absence of years, recalling how she darned and they “tottered” (PP 129) at the fireside as faux-parents in the Neverland of Act Four. Their reunion is emotional; he pleads for her to join him in the fantasy world once more, and Wendy – though eternally tempted (Afterthought 162)  – demurs, finally turning the light upon her face and revealing her capitulation to the ravages of time.

Reacting to his dismay, Wendy is uncharacteristically irresponsible. Mere seconds previously, Peter has implicitly threatened Jane, whom he perceives as having replaced him (162); in spite of this, in her distress at his rejection Wendy (rather hysterically) “rushes in agony from the room, leaving them unsupervised. Jane, waking and comforting the weeping Peter, confirms the circularity of this scene; Barrie writes that “they bow as in Act I”, heralding Jane’s ceremonial ascension to her mother’s place in the cycle of transgression and storytelling which defines woman’s role in Neverland (163). Ormond and Hollindale concur that this ending, though solemn, feels more satisfying than the original. With its invocation of multiple generations of Darling women glorifying “the eternal nature of Peter” (Ormond 108), the Afterthought is made “integral” (Hollindale vii) to the play’s communication of undying innocence and unshakeable faith.

Whilst their approbation is well-judged, both critics misidentify the source of An Afterthought‘s validity as an alternative conclusion to Peter Pan. Scrutiny of Wendy’s closing soliloquy, read against her interactions with the objects of the night nursery, suggests that for Barrie this parallel ending does not give satisfaction solely because it complements “the eternal nature” of Peter. Just as the figurative importance of the night-lights in Mrs Darling’s Act One speech foreshadows her knowing parental sacrifice, Wendy’s lamp dims to allow her to re-enter the nursery in secret. Her stance in the darkness, “taking in the situation and much more” (163) represents a tacit confirmation of that inter-generational, maternal complicity in the child’s escape to Neverland; a complicity which, though more subtly suggested in Mrs Darling, is discernible in her own non-verbal engagement with the spaces of home. Here, Wendy actually articulates the extent of her collusion in this bargain:

      WENDY: Don’t be anxious, Nana. This is how I planned it if he ever came back. Every Spring Cleaning, except when he forgets, I’ll let Jane fly away with him to the darling   Never Never Land, and when she grows up I will hope she will have a little daughter, who will  fly away with him in turn – and in this way I may go on for ever and ever, dear Nana, so long  as children are young and innocent (Barrie Afterthought 163).

In her anticipation of his return in An Afterthought, Wendy ensures the immortality of the story of the Darling women, rather than the “‘stories of me'” (PP 153) to which Peter (and implicitly Barrie’s audience) are attracted. Peter’s seduction of Jane, when framed as part of Wendy’s “plan”, re-distributes the balance of power to the women of the play, who have been previously cast as tragic heroines by being aged out of Peter’s world. Equally, the close of the scene elevates Wendy to a position of dominance. In a reversal of the original tableau of Peter in the treetops of Neverland, in this version he is the one who must leave the stage to return to the fantasy realm, whilst Wendy both claims his world as her own – “the darling Never Never Land” (my italics) – and remains onstage as an intimation that her omniscient authority in the domestic sphere outlives the ephemeral moments of Peter’s quickly-forgotten conquests. As such, Wendy’s role in An Afterthought represents the victory of a distinctly feminine agenda which has been at work for years beneath her responsibilites of motherhood and domestic life.

However, the particular manner in which the Afterthought was framed for its one theatrical performance is what truly contradicts readings which stress its appropriacy as a narrative fulfilment for Peter. For Barrie pointedly introduces a “baby mermaid” to prepare the audience for the content of When Wendy Grew Up. Like the Darling women, then, the baby mermaid in her Edwardian nightgown is camouflaged in the domestic sphere; on a superficial level, she sets up An Afterthought to establish a matrilneal inter-generational storytelling cycle. However, her stated identity aligns her with the creatures of Act Three, whose appearance means danger and voices beckons death. The physical and symbolic hybridity she shares with her sirenic ancestors in the play places this scene in a context which validates the cultural substitution of the nebulous mermaid-woman for the self-effacing angel at the hearth. At its basis, then, the baby mermaid’s appearance directly before a scene which stresses the endurance and deceptiveness of female power, is persuasively read as Barrie’s legitimisation of seditious womanhood in the spaces of home. An Afterthought is therefore not merely – or even primarily – a narrative endorsement of Peter’s everlasting essence, but a meaningful acknowledgement of subversive female agency in the domestic sphere.

Such symbolic connotations of the mermaid figure enable us to view Mrs Darling through the same sirenic lens. By recognising that she relies upon a combination of mystery and manipulation to maintain equilibrium within the home we may conclude that Auerbach’s is a fitting metaphor. Superficially acquiescent with conventional social, class and gender expectations, Mrs Darling nevertheless is associated with mythic tradition when she masks peril with words, lulling her children to sleep and luring danger close to them with the “strange tales” (PP 88) she tells: tales, amongst which, cleverly, Wendy and her brothers’ adventures will soon be numbered.

This post written by Rosaleen Nolan

Rosaleen A. Nolan completed her doctoral thesis in literature, ‘ “This Journey Through The House”: Re-Centring the Domestic Space in the Storytelling of J.M. Barrie’ at the University of Edinburgh. She has previously written on the dialogue between the works of Charles Dickens, traditional nineteenth-century fairytales and the infantilisation of women. Her research interests encompass children’s and Scottish literature, the portrayal of gender and the role of setting.

Works Cited

Auerbach, Nina – Woman and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth. Harvard University Press, 1982.

Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space (1958). Translated by Etienne Gilson, Beacon Press, 1969.

Barrie, James Matthew. “Peter Pan (1904).” Peter Pan and Other Plays edited by Peter Hollindale, Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 87-154.

— “Peter and Wendy (1911).” Peter Pan edited by Jack Zipes, Penguin, 2004, pp. 5-153

— “The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island (1901).” Peter Pan and Other Plays edited by Peter Hollindale, Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 80-86
— “When Wendy Grew Up: An Afterthought (1908).”Peter Pan and Other Plays edited by Peter Hollindale, Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 156-163.

Birkin, Andrew.  Jmbarrie.co.uk.
“Introduction.”
http://www.jmbarrie.co.uk/introduction/. Accessed 7 October 2018.

Bold, Valentina and Andrew Nash. Gateway to the Modern: Resituating J.M. Barrie. Scottish Literature International, 2014.

Chapman, Amanda Phillips. “The Riddle of Peter Pan’s Existence: An Unselfconscious Stage Child.” The Lion and the Unicorn, vol.36, no.2, 2012, pp.136-153. Project Muse. doi.org/10.1353/uni.2012/0017. Accessed 3 Jul. 2017.

Coats, Karen. “Child-Hating: Peter Pan in the Context of Victorian Hatred.” J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan In and Out of Time, edited by Donna R. White and C. Anita Tarr, The Scarecrow Press, 2006, pp. 3-22.

Gaarden, Bonnie. “Flight Behaviour: Mr. Darling and Masculine Models in J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy.” Children’s Literature, vol. 45, 2017, pp. 69-91. Project Muse, doi.org/10.1353/chl.2017.0004. Accessed 3 Jul 2017.

Green, Roger L. Fifty Years of Peter Pan. Peter Davies Ltd, 1954.

Hollindale, Peter: Peter Pan and Other Plays. Oxford University Press, 2008,
— “Introduction.” Peter Pan and Other Plays. Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. vii-xxv
— “Explanatory Notes.” Peter Pan and Other Plays. Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 299-338.

Jack, RDS. “Peter Pan As Darwinian Creation Myth.” Literature and Theology, vol. 8, no.2, 1994. pp. 157-73. JSTOR. URL: www.jstor.org/stable/23926716. Accessed 7 Nov 2017.
Road to the Neverland: A Reassessment of J.M. Barrie’s Dramatic Art. Aberdeen University Press, 1991.

Kincaid, James R. Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting. Duke University Press, 1998.

Morse, M. Joy. “The Kiss: Female Sexuality and Power in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.” J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan In and Out of Time, edited by Donna R. White and C. Anita Tarr, The Scarecrow Press, 2006, pp. 281-302

Nolan, Rosaleen. “This Journey Through the House: Re-Centring The Domestic Space in the Storytelling of J.M. Barrie.” Edinburgh University Doctoral Thesis, 2018.

Ormond, Leonee. Scottish Writers Series: JM Barrie. Scottish Academic Press, 1987.

Roth, Christine. “Babes in Boy-Land: J.M. Barrie and the Edwardian Girl.” J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan In and Out of Time, edited by Donna R. White and C. Anita Tarr, The Scarecrow Press, 2006, pp. 47-67.

Rowe, Karen E. – “To Spin a Yarn: The Female Voice in Folklore and Fairy Tale.”Fairy Tales and Society: Illusion, Allusion and Paradigms, edited by Ruth Bottigheimer, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986, pp. 53-74.

Warner, Marina . From the Beast to the Blonde. Vintage, 1995.

Wasinger, Cassie. “Getting Peter’s Goat: Hybridity, Androgyny and Terror in Peter Pan.J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan In and Out of Time, edited by Donna R. White and C. Anita Tarr, The Scarecrow Press, 2006, pp. 217-236.

White, Donna R and C. Anita Tarr. J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan In and Out of Time: A Children’s Classic at 100. The Scarecrow Press, 2006.

Wiggins, Kayla McKinney – “More Darkly Down the Left-Arm: The Duplicity of Fairyland in the Plays of J.M. Barrie.” J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan In and Out of Time, edited by Donna R. White and C. Anita Tarr, The Scarecrow Press, 2006, pp. 79-104.

[i] See Bold and Nash (viii)

iii] The first published edition of the play-text of Peter Pan appeared in 1928.

[iv]See Green (30).

[v] See White and Tarr (xiii).

[vi] See Kincaid (140-1)

[vii] See Roth (56); Gaarden (86)

[viii] After taking both roles in the play’s inaugural run, Gerald Du Maurier instigated a tradition whereby actors playing Hook would also play Mr Darling (Green 92). Interestingly, Hook himself was an afterthought, created by Barrie to resolve difficulties in staging transitions; Birkin points out that Barrie first positioned Peter, his “demon boy”, as the “villain of the story” (jmbarrie.co.uk). Finally, in an often overlooked part of the play’s stage history, Birkin reveals that: “Barrie’s first instinct was to have [Hook] played by a woman”, Dorothea Baird. Given that Baird was initially cast as Mrs Darling, “the idea of the mother-figure doubling as the ostensible villain would have been a gratifying touch, echoing one of Barrie’s original titles, ‘The Boy who Hated Mothers.'”

[ix] See Nolan, 2018.

[x] See Jack’s “Peter Pan As Darwinian Creation Myth”(160). See also: Wasinger’s discussion of Peter’s pagan hybridity (2006); and Wiggins’ tracing of folk and faerie traditions in Barrie’s work (2006).

[xi] The 1908 scene is reproduced as the final chapter of Peter and Wendy as “When Wendy Grew Up” (1911). By fixing this ending in print seventeen years before the play’s 1928 publication, Barrie effectively bestowed upon An Afterthought the status of Peter Pan most definitive conclusion.

[xii] In the full version of this essay, I have discussed the complex relationship developed by Barrie between household crafts and the conveyance of a symbolic narrative which undermines the work’s ‘dominant’ plot. The compatibility of these domestic arts with the tradition of a specifically feminine – and feminist – storytelling is a theme which resurfaces throughout his career. For more detail, see Rowe (63-4) and Warner (23).

1 thought on ““That Disturbing Element”: Angel-Mother As Mermaid in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan

  1. I congratulate you on such insightful comment and informative content.
    I had no idea that the surfaces of the nursery mirror the psychology of the figures of the children, adults and apparently intrusive outsiders.
    Incredible investigative literary analysis, Rosaleen!
    You have very proud parents!
    John and Patricia Nolan

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