LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

“Hook or me this time!”

on March 28, 2013 12:36pm

In Peter Pan and Wendy, J.M. Barrie introduces a new character: Captain James Hook. I find it interesting that Barrie would choose to place a “grown-up” in Neverland, regardless of the fact that he is a pirate—a popular source of imaginative entertainment. Hook is described as “cadaverous and blackavized” with long, dark curls and blue eyes that are “profoundly melancholy, save when he was plunging his hook into you, at which time two red spots appeared in them and lit them up horribly” (Barrie 41).  Of course, he is also known for his hook as a hand. Hook is further described as courageous and always attempting to have good form though he fears only the sight of his own blood and the crocodile that lies in wait for him. PeterPan_HookBut why is he such an important figure in the story? Hook is the perfect foil to Peter—he represents what Peter could become. They are similar in that they both have lost their mothers in some way and they both feel lonely. We know from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens that Peter waited too late to fully return to his mother before finding that the window was barred and that he had been replaced. Hook alludes to his own mother leaving on page 68 when he speaks of the Never bird. Both Peter and Hook have had unfortunate pasts involving their mothers. Hook feels lonely, especially around his crew because they are beneath and therefore can’t understand him. Peter, a sort of captain of the Lost Boys in his own right, feels lonely in that he is the only child who does not grow up. Everyone leaves him eventually, though he constantly tries to replace them. Hook doesn’t like Peter because of his cockiness. Peter doesn’t like Hook not just because he is a villain but, I believe, because he is a grown up and Peter recognizes the similarities between Hook and himself—“Hook or me this time.” Only one can exist, and of course Peter must triumph.

Hook’s obsession with good form is pivotal in the story. He attempts to maintain good form even though he is technically the villain of the story. But this obsession proves that he may not be completely bad. In this case, Hook transforms from a villain to warning in that Peter could become like Hook. When he thinks Peter is dead, he is at a loss at what to do with himself now that he has followed through with his revenge. He now would serve no real purpose if Peter was truly dead. Yet when Hook dies, Peter has his string of “mothers” and all the lost children.

Although Hook is a grown-up and Peter is forever a child, it becomes apparent that if Peter were to grow up he would mirror Hook. If Hook had been excluded from the story, Peter would meet no obstacles from a sort of authority figure. He would just become a childish young dictator who flies on the seat of his pants and has mommy issues.

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One response to ““Hook or me this time!”

  1. p2murphy says:

    I think you raise a good point. It also ties in well with our class discussion that Peter Pan is also a villain in the story. The tension between the two characters is a constant conflict between their similarities and differences, and both seek to become as unlike one another as possible. Their lack of a mother figure is an element that both characters face, and I believe that Peter – as you said – acknowledges their similarities and so seeks to create differences between them. Likewise, Hook’s obsessive desire to have good form is an extreme attempt to differentiate himself from Peter. This conflict is resolved when the characters find ways to become different. For example, because he sees how Hook turns out, Peter Pan seeks a mother like Wendy to develop him and nurture him to avoid becoming an eternal Hook. By having a mother, Peter is creating differences between them. In the long run, the development of these differences will allow him to develop and become more able to avoid turning into Hook. This epitome of this differentiation is achieved when Peter finally defeats and kills Hook; he becomes as opposite of Hook as can be possible. That is to say, Peter Pan is alive while Hook is dead.

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