After reorganizing my entire living room and setting it up as a library, I wanted to read a short, quick book before getting to work on productive things for the day. Holy buckets of Legos, Peter Pan (Young Adult Fantasy 191 pages) by J.M. Barrie is depressing.
It took me a little bit to get into the flow of the writing style, but everything started reading smoothly around Chapter III with Come Away, Come Away. Maybe it was just the way books were written when this originally came out. In retrospect, there are a lot of times when it takes my brain a little bit to get used to some books and tones.
I guess this story also adequately mirrored the time when it was written, as it had very clear-cut gender roles and a very limited grasp of bigger picture issues or concerns. In some ways, I’m a little bit envious of a simple life where all you have to do is exactly what’s expected of you and you’ll be considered a success. In other ways, I’m deeply grateful every day that I am alive in this era. While I know our world these days has its problems, I at least feel like I have a chance of being my own person and that no one save myself is capable of defining who I am.
This story was not the happy Disney cartoon that I saw when I was younger. There was no animated fun and high-spirited adventure for me. For me, reading this story was remarkably depressing on just about every level. I can’t imagine a more desolate existence than one in which you never really care about anyone except yourself. Yes, I have met and parted ways with many people I’ve loved over the years and I’ve been terribly hurt by the people I care about, but all those experiences and the memories of them have made me who I am today.
And who I am is pretty awesome and amazing.
I used to wish I could forget the parts and people in my life that hurt me the most, but over the years, I’ve realized that I’ve learned so much from everyone in my life and I’ve grown in so many ways that wiping the bad memories away means that I would never really appreciate the good memories. I have a deeper and more thorough belief in love and hope these days than I ever could if I hadn’t experienced what it meant to have my life collapse around me. Because of the pain and the sorrow and the heartache, it’s made me appreciate all that I have and all those people in my life.
Maybe I’m missing the point of Peter Pan. At the end of the story, Peter Pan continues to drop in from time to time, randomly, and pull the next little girl from Wendy’s line into a series of cleaning, care-taking, and adventures. It’s possible that their adventures with Peter Pan help them appreciate growing up and having people genuinely love them in return. I don’t think Peter Pan loves anyone except himself and that makes me sad for him. He thinks he’s fantastic and the best and most brilliant, but he’s just a cocky kid who doesn’t know or understand true love. He doesn’t understand selflessness or consideration or generosity. And he doesn’t understand sacrifice. Life is a game to him and he will kill anyone who mocks him or gets to be too like him. He will let people die because there’s no clever way for him to boost his own ego by saving them. He gets bored with doing the right thing and doesn’t even know what the right thing is. He will hurt whoever he wants, most especially the people who would love him, just because he can and because he is incapable of love.
It seems to me as though Peter Pan is the complete opposite of everything I strive to be in my life. While I do enjoy adventures and having a wonderful time doing whatever I want, I refuse to hurt those I love in order to do it. Overall, I found this book terribly depressing. While I enjoyed the writing and the sense of adventure, I found myself disliking Peter Pan in a very serious way. I would rate it as a two, which is a book (or movie) I would read (or watch) again if someone else told me I had to (or was already watching it), but not something I would seek out again on my own.
Can someone out there please chime in with reasons that I shouldn’t find this book so depressing? I am genuinely interested in hearing opposite thoughts on this.