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Peter Pan By J.M. Barrie Essay

1144 words - 5 pages

Throughout the novel Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie explicitly illuminates gender stereotypes and paternal and maternal qualities of the Victorian era. In the early 20th century, patriarchal society strictly defined men and women’s roles in the community. Traditionally, men were expected to attain manhood in the eyes of other men in society, find a spouse, achieve success and respect, provide for their wife and family, work through hardships, live adventurously, and financially succeed. A woman’s main role in life was her responsibilities to her family- primarily seen as wives, mothers, and caretakers, with her place being in a domestic setting. Through Peter Pan, Mr. and Mrs. Darling, Wendy, and Peter Pan each adhere to the classic gender stereotypes and paternal and maternal characteristics of the early 20th century in their own unique way.
The differences of the roles of men and women throughout the novel are very distinct. Through Peter Pan, Barrie portrays men as childish, audacious, respected and sometimes stubborn individuals with strong personalities that request obedience from their peers and children. Mr. Darling is a proud businessman who provides for his family and is respected by his children, wife, and neighbors: “Mr Darling used to boast to Wendy that her mother not only loved him but respected him. He was one of those deep ones who know about stocks and shares.” (Barrie 2). As provider and the main source of income for the family, Mr. Darling wants the best for his household, despite their financial deficits. Through Mr. Darling’s interactions with Mrs. Darling and his three children, it is clear he illustrates the classic gender role of the early 20th century. Mrs. Darling is described as, “…a lovely lady, with a romantic mind and such a sweet mocking mouth.” (1) Similar to traditional women roles in the Victorian era, Mrs. Darling’s prime role was raising her children and taking care of her husband. She embodies characteristics of an ideal mother, has everything in order, is an obedient wife, and is sometimes slightly obsequious to her husband. Barrie reveals that Mr. Darling lacks complete control over Mrs. Darling, straying away from the Victorian era norm: “When the children flew away, Mr Darling felt in his bones that all the blame was his for having chained Nana up, and that from first to last she (Mrs. Darling) had been wiser then he.” (183) The traditional stereotypes throughout the novel correspond with the time period the novel was written, resulting in distinct gender roles. Mrs. and Mr. Darling’s characters are the first to lay out the classic gender stereotypes, and Wendy and Peter follow in their footsteps.
From the beginning of the novel, Wendy fills Peter’s missing maternal piece. Like the traditional roles of women in the Victorian era, women's roles in the novel were primarily to nurture, care for the children, and support their husband- motherhood is idealized throughout the novel. When Peter proposed the idea of...

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