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Gender Roles In Peter Pan By J.M. Barrie

1196 words - 5 pages

In Peter and Wendy, written by J. M. Barrie, the characters exhibit specific qualities which are stereotypical of their genders. The characters fall into traditional concepts of masculinity and femininity: Peter is cocky, stubborn, charismatic and enigmatic to the women in his life, and Wendy Darling, a young girl whose father wants to remove her from the nursery she shares with her brothers. The two characters embody and perpetuate gender stereotypes, and mirror the stereotypes embodied by the adult characters in the story, Mr. and Mrs. Darling.
Barrie presents Mr. Darling as the worker of the family, a proud businessman. He persistently demands respect and obedience from his wife, children, and Nana the dog. As well as this, he boasts to Wendy that Mrs. Darling not only loves him, but respects him. This outlook is linked to the stereotypical view of the male gender as the main source of income, with a resilient disposition and a necessity for order. When Mrs. Darling talks to him about Peter Pan, he dismisses her concerns, suggesting indifference and a lack of concern for others’ views.
Contrastingly, Mrs. Darling, his wife, is portrayed as a romantic, maternal character. She is a “lovely lady”, who had many suitors yet was “won” by Mr. Darling, who got to her first. However, she is a multifaceted character because her mind is described “like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from the puzzling East”, suggesting that she is, to some extent, an enigma to the other characters, especially Mr. Darling. As well as this, she exemplifies the characteristics of a “perfect mother”. She puts everything in order, including her children’s minds, which is a metaphor for the morals and ethics that she instils in them. Although she has a mind of her own, she is still somewhat submissive to Mr. Darling, who she knows not to bother when he is busy purely because she already recognises that he will dismiss what she says.
Barrie depicts Peter and Wendy as adhering to the stereotypes of their respective genders, as when Wendy is transported to Neverland to become a mother for the Lost Boys, and how Peter designates what her responsibilities as their mother would be as he tempts her to join him. In addition, Peter and Wendy reflect gender stereotypes specifically in regards to maternal and paternal qualities. These qualities are first displayed in the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Darling, and Peter and Wendy follow their examples. Wendy becomes enticed by the idea of being the perfect mother, while Peter preserves the paternal, male superiority personified by Wendy’s father. When convincing Wendy to come to Neverland, Wendy is reluctant, but Peter “had no pity for her,” reflecting Mr. Darling’s lack of concern for their opinions.
Wendy falls into the stereotype of the “happy homemaker,” completely captivated with the idea of tending to the Lost Boys. Her attitude towards the responsibilities Peter describes suggests that women are destined to be...

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