Archetypes in peter pan

Published: 2021-07-12 15:55:05
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Category: Peter Pan

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Fairytales appeal to all age groups who seek escape, entertainment and look for guidance in their journey in life. In Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie uses archetypes and motifs that establish the story as a fairytale. Among the features of the fairytale are having the setting in a magical land, having a hero and a villain and having major characters on a quest. Barrie creates the Neverland as the land of dreams where these archetypes and motifs come to life to tell a story of escape, adventure and journey, putting this story clearly in the fairytale genre.
Barrie uses a variety of archetypes but among the most that strengthen the fairytale genre of the story are Captain Hook and Peter, as villain and eternal boy/hero. Captain Hook is Neverland’s villain who apart from doing evil deeds wants to kill Peter Pan. “ Hook always carried about his person a dreadful drug, blended by himself of all the death-dealing rings that had come into his possession”(111-112). This quote clearly shows Hook’s evil nature. He will later use this drug to try to kill Peter Pan. Barrie creates Peter Pan as the eternal boy who stands up to Hook’s evil actions.
Sometimes Peter’s childish behavior weakens his hero archetype. “Now Peter could never resist a game”(80). This quote shows that while he can get the advantage over Hook as a real hero, he can just as easily throw that away by following his boyish tendencies. Barrie further uses female archetypes to develop the story as a fairytale. Wendy and Tinker bell are also key to enhancing the story’s fairytale qualities by contrasting the archetype of the ideal woman with the archetype of the childish female. Wendy represents motherhood throughout the story, caring for Peter, the lost boys and her younger brothers.
“Wendy’s favorite time for sewing and darning was after they had all gone to bed”(69). Here Barrie presents the teenage girl Wendy as a mature mother performing maternal duties after her kids are safely asleep. Wendy’s ideal female archetype is similar to Snow White who takes care of the seven dwarfs in the famous fairytale. In contrast, Tinker bell is a childish female who is preoccupied by her emotions and desires. “ Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room one feeling only at a time”(46).
This shows the immature personality of Tinker bell who is always trying to eliminate Wendy because of her jealousy due to her attraction to Peter Pan. The childish female archetype also applies to Little Red Riding Hood who is fooled by the wolf’s intention. Barrie’s effective use of standard archetypes clearly places Peter Pan in the fairytale category. In addition to archetypes, Barrie also uses motifs common to many fairy tales such as day and night and magic dust. The motif of day and night is important for helping the magical nature of Neverland come alive in the nursery.
“While she was dreaming the window of the nursery blew open, and a boy did drop on the floor”(12). This quote shows how the nursery can be transformed into a dreamland only at night. Peter Pan visits at night to listen to the bedtime stories that Mrs. Darling tells the kids every night. Another example of magic happening at night is when the kids fly with Peter to Neverland. On the other hand, during the day the nursery is just a normal room where no magic or nothing unusual takes place. Barrie furthers the motif of day and night which the motif of light and dark. ”I was crying because I can’t get my shadow to stick on”(25).
Peter’s shadow that represents darkness must be an essential part of his being that allows him to function in the light. Another motif that is common in fairytales in the use of magical elements such as magic dust. “Of course Peter had been trifling with them, for no one can fly unless the fairy dust has been blown on him”(33). In this case the fairy dust is an essential process needed for flying, one of the most enchanting aspects of this story. Without the main characters fly it is hard to imagine Peter Pan having the fairytale appeal that it has had for generations.
Barrie’s use of the motifs is instrumental in building this story into a compelling fairytale. Another powerful motif in Peter Pan is the quest that each main character is on. Peter Pan leads the children Wendy, John and Michael on a journey to Neverland, the land of their dreams. “John lived in a boat turned upside down on the sands, Michael in a wigwam, Wendy in a house of leaves deftly sewn together”(9). From the outset of the story the Neverland has been created in the dreams of the kids in the nursery. These dreams can be viewed as individual quests for the kids.
Peter Pan is the guide that takes them on their quest and helps them realize their dreams. On their journey they encounter characters that help them realize that their dreams are not reality. They discover that Neverland is not a final destination and long for home. Barrie also uses the kids to help Peter Pan on his quest but Peter is a child who does not know what he wants. The motif of the quest enhances the use Fairytales appeal to our need for adventure, excitement and fantasy. To be considered a fairytale the story must have certain features that are familiar to all readers.
Archetypes and motifs play a key role in the production of an effective fairytale. In Peter Pan, Barrie uses the familiar archetypes of hero, villain, ideal woman and the childish female that are seen in popular fairytales. To further enrich the fairytale with magical qualities he uses the motifs of Daylight and night, magic dust and the quest. Barrie’s effective use of these literary devices, which are central to the fairytale genre, has helped him create one of the most memorable bedtime stories that are ready to children everywhere.

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