Gender Roles in Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie Essays

Gender Roles in Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie Essays

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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 ...

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... the male characters reveals that not all female characters were written to be “timid [and] dependant.” She also makes a deal with Captain Hook, the antagonist character. Tinker Bell is a representation of the fatal female, where a female tries to accomplish her hidden purpose by using feminine guiles such as charm and beauty. She is also manipulative and full of negative emotions, which were not seen appropriate in a female in the late Victorian era. However, despite Tinker Bell contrasting from the usual female gender roles, she does conform in terms of love. The women share unrequited attractions to Peter, and consequently their feelings are imprisoned in a limited range between their jealousy of one another and silent yearning for Peter.

Works Cited

Bertens, H. Literary Theory: The Basics (The Politics of Class: Marxism), (Abingdon, Routledge, 2001) pp. 94-99

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