Peter Pan as a Trickster Figure
Eva Valentona’s article, “The Betwixt and Between: Peter Pan as a trickster Figure,” explores the literary figure of Peter Pan as trickster due to common features as his “liminal character, his moral and gender ambiguity, and his role as a creative bricoleur.” to paint a picture of this seemingly childhood character as one with more historical relevance for Victorian England (735). The trickster, Pan operates between the world of good and evil, acting as an “anomaly”(736). Yet for all the good the trickster may play with, he or she is ultimately in the world of the deceived, which suggests that the trickster is a manifestation of society and the boundaries, or lack thereof, that exist.
This makes sense literally and historically when one analyzes Pan’s origins. Peter “Pan” is a descendant of Pan, the half-goat, and Peter is the half-bird (738). This is another relation to the “in-between.” Yet both can change their appearance; Peter pretends to be Captain Hook to trick the sailors, to which he is most pretentious but almost too pretentious for his good. Pan, on the other hand, wanted to seduce Selene and faked an appearance. Over time Peter has been known to change his sex ( androgynous, as the character, can play a small boy, and could also be a girl), and sides in a fight. Both characters are pipe players to lure toward them, but at the same time, change when the situation fits them. Both characters are greedy, yet in a way; Pan is sexually voracious, yet for stories, Peter is voracious as well (741). ( Although Wendy “ wriggles her body” toward Peter in excitement, to show hidden sexuality, it is more a salute to the actions of Pan’s predecessor (745).”
Eva Valentova also compares Peter to St. Peter, the guardian of Heaven’s gate. Peter acts as a conduit between the living and the dead, and a “psychopomp” (742). Peter, ready to move between the worlds for boys or are “lost” or in a way, dead. However, Peter has the power to bring them back to life, “ returning Wendy and her brother (743). This power makes sense in the world of Victorian England where children are seen as innocent, and morally superior to adults. For some, however, children were a nuisance to be constrained. Thus, the trickster emerged as a way to ‘violate social constraints” (744). He operates as a young child who will never grow because he is dead; both good and bad in one situation. This maintains the “betwixt” mentality.
In Victorian society, the overarching consideration is that children need to be governed yet Peter shows that if children are given proper leeway, they will find their terms. However, Peter is also portrayed as heartless, not by his own making, but by his stage development; children want things and his egotism makes him come first. The author of Peter Pan does not portray this in a brutish, animalistic light, but rather, as a progressive mentality that children will be children. This is why Peter’s bad side never fully emerges to make him an antagonist, despite negative qualities, because he is a child at heart and the bad intentions towards children stem from the poor quality of morals of the adults. When Peter fights like a man against Hook, he operates with respect; this proves that he is capable, a fear of some Victorians. Therefore, Eva Valentova asserts the idea that Peter Pan remains a trickster of children’s literature to be just as influential to the children it teaches as the adults who watch the children.
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