Professor McNeil
English 322
Spring 2013
Due: beginning of class,
April 18-April 25

Fourth Response Assignment

Assignment: Please discuss one set of the following questions clearly and concisely, focusing your discussion on a single theme or idea. Devote equal space to each question. (at least 2 typed, double-spaced pages total)

April 18: Peter Pan (Pick one)
1. In his introduction to the Oxford World Classics edition of Peter Pan, Peter Hollindale claims of J.M. Barrie: “Many of his plays can be seen as explorations of the tension between change and changelessness. It seems that in Barrie’s thinking there was an unresolved contradiction between belief in the fixity of human personality and belief in the multiple possibilities opened up for every individual by roles and role-play” (x).
Discuss the theme of roles and role-playing in Peter Pan, especially in the way the themes concerns ideas about childhood and growing up.

2. The role of Peter Pan has traditionally been performed by females. Sandy Duncan, who played Peter in over 550 Broadway performances, has said, “There’s a great vulnerability in young males, more than in young women. . . . They have such an innocence that you know is going to be lost and you can’t do anything about it” (Allen 114). Discuss the association with a child (boy) who never grows up and (adult) femininity in Peter Pan.

April 23: Peter Pan (Pick one)

According to Peter Hollindale in his introduction to the Oxford World Classics edition of Peter Pan, “The essential question on which the editor must make a decision is the status of Barrie’s published stage directions” (xv). He goes on to say that “Barrie’s printed stage directions are not only one of the glories of his dramatic achievement but an indispensable key to its true nature” (xvi). Take a close look at Barrie’s stage directions as they relate to the performance of gender, childhood, and adulthood.

2. The subtitle of Jacqueline Rose's seminal study of Peter Pan is "the Impossibility of Children's Fiction," by which she seems to suggest that a form of fiction that truly takes in the world as a child actually sees it, isn't really possible. This is illustrated for her by the strange case of Peter Pan, which, she writes in the introduction assigned to you, "is a classic for children despite the fact that they could not read it--either because it was too expensive, or because it was virtually impossible to read" (6). Peter Pan cannot really be considered a children's book? If so, what makes a children's book a true children's book? Is ALL fiction written by adults (and almost all children's books are written by adults) ultimately an "adult's" book, written from the mindset of an adult? Do children's books reveal more about adult desires, fantasies, and anxieties about childhood and growing up than they do about the lives of the children for which they are intended? Discuss Rose's theme of "the impossibility of children's literature," using your own interpretation of Peter Pan the play and your reading of her introduction.

April 25: Peter Pan
1. How does Peter Pan express the imperialism of the British empire? How does it represent and reproduce the child as a colonial subject? The story adopts many of the characters and themes of the American western and British colonial adventure tale,as it takes place on an exotic island locale, with barbaric pirates and "savage" wild Indians. Yes, these themes are more often played for laughs in Peter Pan, reduced in seriousness and even menace form earlier adventure stories. How is Never land like a far-flung future colony of the British empire? What role do these figures of adventure play in Peter Pan's story? How much of a threat an antagonist are they in the story? What motivates Captain Hook's behavior and actions in the story? What motivates Tiger Lilly's? How do Peter or Wendy mimic conventional adventures roles for men and women? Who is the hero of Peter Pan? Discuss the colonialism at the heart of the adventure story in Peter Pan.