J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is a children’s story about a boy who never wants to grow up, but it has serious themes. Among these is the theme of the idealization of motherhood. Although the concept of the mother is idealized throughout Peter Pan, it is motherhood itself that prevents Peter Pan and others from maturing into responsible adulthood.
The novel begins with a scene in the nursery of the Darling household, and it will end in the nursery too. The nursery is an important place for the Darlings. It is where the Wendy, John, and Michael sleep, and where they are taken care of by the maternal figures of Mrs. Darling and Liza, and by their dog, appropriately named Nana.
The fact that Barrie chooses this location for both the beginning and the end of the novel is indicative of the importance of domestic life and maternal care in Peter Pan. After the Darling children complete their adventures in Neverland, they come back to the womblike embrace of the nursery room to be taken care of again by those maternal figures. Wendy, who promises to return to Neverland, is the only exception in this respect, but of course her promise to return is a promise precisely to resume a maternal role.
From the beginning of this book, then, we see an idealization of motherhood. Mrs. Darling is described as the “loveliest lady” (3), a sweet, kind mother who is nice to her children. She dresses in the gown that the children love to see her in, she sacrifices her wedding gown to create coverlets for the children’s beds, and she is always playful with her children, as when she jokes with Michael that she will be his mother if Wendy and John, who are playing a husband-and-wife game at the time, do not want her.
She describes her children as “sweet” (5) and fully enjoys being with them. She also shows motherly concern for her children, as when she alerts Mr. Darling to the apparent danger when Peter Pan breaks into their house....