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Theme, Symbolism, And Irony In The Works Of J. M. Barrie

2991 words - 12 pages

James Matthew Barrie, an author and playwright, is well-known for his works (Markgraf). It could be assumed that someone who wrote works so full of imagination and creativity would have the greatest amount of happiness. This idea is not true in the case of Barrie, but even though he faced such tragedy, his works are still mostly cheerful. James Matthew Barrie’s strong themes combined with deep symbolism and irony mesh together in his books and give each of his works a sense of whimsical magic and emotion, allowing Barrie to express the childhood he missed out on and essentially wanted.
James Matthew Barrie was born on May 9, 1860, in Kirriemuir, Scotland. His mother and father, David Barrie and Margaret Ogilvy, had ten children. Only seven of their children were surviving, and Barrie was the youngest son (Billone ix). When Barrie was just seven years old, his brother, David, died in a skating accident. David was his mother’s favorite child. The death of David grieved his mother deeply, which led James to decide to try to take the place of his brother. Although Barrie tried, his attempts were never successful. Barrie missed out on his own childhood because he tried to live his brother’s (Dunbar 10-14). Then, it seems he spent the rest of his life either knowingly or subconsciously trying to get it back as it is revealed in his work.
Barrie had simple beginnings, but he was well-educated. He attended the prestigious Dumfries Academy for five years. In 1882, he went to Edinburgh University and got a master of arts degree in English literature. Barrie began work for the Nottingham Journal in 1883 and then went on to work as a freelance journalist in 1885. Barrie’s published his first work, Better Dead, in 1887. This publication began his literary career (Billone ix-x). These jobs must have been good practice for the writing to come.
Barrie married Mary Ansell, an actress, in 1894. A few years later, Barrie met Sylvia Llewellyn Davies and her family and formed an attachment to her. Davies’ boys are the children that later became the inspiration for Peter Pan. In 1909, Barrie divorced his wife and in 1910, Davies died of cancer. Earlier, in 1907, Barrie began taking care of Davies and her children financially after the death of her husband (Billone xii-xiii). It seems that Barrie was trying to insure a childhood for the boys and possibly because he wanted to give them something he did not have.
Margaret Ogilvy, Barrie’s biography about his mother, conveys the relationship Barrie and Margaret had with each other. The book talks about the effects the death of David had on his mother in much detail and it conveys how Barrie felt so much responsibility for his mother’s happiness. Billone commented, “At six years old, James Matthew Barrie believed he was his mother’s last hope” (Billone xv). Many times children do not pay attention to the emotions of people around them, but it seems Barrie was in tune with the emotions of others.

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