Children vs. Authority: Rebellious Attitudes

Children vs. Authority: Rebellious Attitudes to Avoid Societal Expectations Children’s literature has an extremely influential way of shaping a child’s outlook on life. When children read stories, they often relate to the characters on a very personal level, whether the character is polite and kind or rude and bratty. The plots of children’s stories can influence generations of children in negative and positive ways. For over one hundred years, one of these influential texts is still J. M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, which originated as a play.
The main character, Peter Pan, is a boy ho lives in Neverland and refuses to grow up. He lives by his own rules, with no parental guidance to help him learn right from wrong. The same concept is depicted in Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Harriet, an eleven year old aspiring writer, creates her own rules for being a child rather than conforming to societal expectations. In a book written by Colin Heywood, the historical expectations of children are explored with the conclusion that the expectations of children will continue to change over time, and Heywood is in hopes of this becoming a positive change.
During the transition period from child to adult, many children rebel against authority figures, including parents or institutions. In Peter and Wendy and Harriet the Spy, the main characters rebel against authority in such a way as to defy social order. Living in Neverland, Peter refuses to mature and wishes to remain a boy forever, while Harriet could careless about conforming to the typical social requirements of her gender. Heywood discusses the gradual societal changes inflicted upon children from before the writings of J. M. Barrie to current novelists today.

Both Peter and Wendy are strong examples of children who oppose parental authority fgures in order to resist the social normalities which proceed adolescence. Barrie’s character of Peter Pan opposes all authority in Peter and Wendy, however, the parental fgure of Neverland -Captain Hook- is the one authoritarian fgure in Peter’s fantasy which he cannot escape. The plot seems to thicken as the story continues, and their is major friction between the two characters: Peter avoids authority while Hook demands it. Peter interacts with parental authority throughout the novel, beginning with the Darlings.
He frequently listens to the stories Mrs. Darling tells in the nursery, yet will not commit to the idea of parents and the rules that come along with them. He instead encourages Wendy, Michael and John to fly to Neverland with him, enticing them with “mermaids” and “pirates” (Barrie 97-100). This enticement is a depiction of Peter avoiding authority; he is encouraging the children to rebel and leave their parents for a fantasy island with no rules. A second example of Peter resisting authority is his interaction with Captain Hook in Neverland.
Hook represents the dominant adult authority in a fantasy land with no ules, therefore, Peter and Captain Hook are polar opposites in the story. Peters constant opposition to boyhood leads to Hooks death to the infamous crocodile. Through Peters defile of authority to both parental fgures in the novel, he is avoiding the social structure which occurs in ones growth from child to adult. Besides blatantly stating “l always want to be a little boy and to nave tun,” Peter Pan continuously suppresses the idea of parental guidance or any type of authority (Barrie 92).
Peter does not want to participate in the normal milestones of life, nstead, he wishes to stay a boy forever. He is constantly avoiding rules, adults, and any concept of responsibility expected from him. Although Peter demonstrates many qualities of a young man, especially with his leadership of the lost boys, he continuously defies the social normalities which follow adolescence. In an article written about J. M. Barrie, it states that Peter and Wendy stand out from other works for its use of “childhood innocence, the island as a retreat from society, separation, the fantastic, and the need for social order” (Schoenberg and Trudeau 2).
Social order s a reoccuring theme in Barrie’s novel; the evident lack of social order emphasizes the evident need for it. When Wendy travels to Neverland with Peter she begins feeling romantically inclined towards him, however, Peter does not return the same emotion. He is incapable of romance, as he is not a man nor wishes to be one. He demonstrates authority himself, yet will not accept it from others. With the control of his own fantasy in Neverland, Peter eliminates any possibility of having a father and instead takes on the role as he sees fit.

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