LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

An Afterthought

on March 28, 2013 1:51am

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After the production of Peter Pan, J.M Barrie began receiving questions about what happens to Wendy after her encounter with Peter and Neverland. He decided to include “An Afterthought,” to satisfy the curiosity readers, and followers of the beloved characters had about what was to come for the boy who never grows up, and his female friend.

In the epilogue, Barrie brings the story full circle and explains how the passing of time means his  young companions will age, and soon forget the wonders they shared in the fantastical world of Neverland. But with this aging also brings new daughters, and therefore new generations for Peter to influence.

Many view this alternate ending as a bittersweet way to bring the story to a close. Upon Peter’s initial return to the Darling house, after many years, he is greeted by an adult Wendy putting her own daughter Jane to bed. Wendy must break the news that she has grown past the age of flying capabilities because she has “forgotten.” This is heartbreaking for Peter because he is being forced to face the reality that everyone he loves and has emotional attachments to will  advance him temporally and eventually forget his existence. This is precisely why he must start over every few years with a new child–a fresh imagination, ready to be taken away to a land only their wildest dreams could’ve conceived.

This entire sequence is commonly left out of later adaptations of the story, which seems unusual considering the initial interest in the afterthought was the reason Barrie included an epilogue to the story in the first place. Perhaps it is to spare the audience of having to accept the truth that Peter and Wendy can never be together, and if this is true, the story is being deprived a perfect connecting thread to the beginning of the story.

“If you ask your grandmother if she’s heard of Peter Pan…”

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One response to “An Afterthought

  1. viceligar says:

    I was always incredibly interested in the world of Peter Pan and the background of the characters. Why would these seemingly privileged children choose to live on their own in a dangerous yet adventurous land? Why would the Darlings not send out a search party over all of England to find their children? How did the adults like Hook and his pirates end up in Neverland? Like I mentioned in class, I became increasingly obsessed with Peter Pan in the seventh grade. Along with watching the Peter Pan live-action film more times that should be considered acceptable, I devoured a young adult novel called “Wendy” by Karen Wallace. It was an attempt to explain the Darling children’s willingness to fly away with Peter because their home life was allegedly horrible. Before Peter appeared, the Darling children had suffered abuse and tragedy- a cruel nanny, a criminal and adulterous father, and a suggestion of insanity in the family.
    This book fascinated me because it answered my questions about the Darling children, albeit with a sad story. Karen Wallace unveils the dark side of many of the late-Victorian era’s rigid social and cultural customs. In doing so, she manages to suck much of the magic out of the beloved Peter Pan story, but it still fascinated me. I liked the idea of the Darlings having real reasons to want to get away because as a rational and happy child, I could not understand why they would want to run away. The Darlings and the inhabitants of Neverland are characters that will continually fascinate readers, securing its position in the canon of children’s literature.

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