Peter Pan and Childhood

In Karen Sanchez-Eppler’s piece on Childhood, Sanchez chooses to showcase how childhood has had a varied definition over time and how childhood is not experienced the same by all children. The piece talks about the contrast in what many people would believe to be the hallmarks of childhood and the realities for child laborers and child soldiers. Eppler introduces several different historical figures views on childhood and what it means and compares them to each other. Their views on childhood range from a popular modern theory of how childhood is defined through innocence and fantasy to theories about childhood being simply a preparation for adult life. Through comparing these theories to each other, Eppler is advancing her point that the idea that we have a childhood could be vastly different from another’s.

Take for example one of the texts we read in class, Little House of the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and compare the experiences of these children to the ever-popular children’s classic Peter Pan. In Little House on the Prairie, the girls have responsibilities and experiences far beyond what many adults have experienced. They set out on a cross country trek to start a new life with only their parents and the wagon over their head. Their journey, though not directly discussed within the text, is literally a life or death situation. If you compare this to how childhood is displayed in Peter Pan, you will see this widely different idea of innocence and imagination played out. In the video i have included above, one of the lyrics is, “think of the happiest things, it’s the same as having wings.” This line is alluding to how a child’s imagination has no bounds and can take them anywhere they want to go. In the film, Peter Pan talks about a place called Neverland. In Neverland children are eternally youthful and keeps their childhood traits, such as an undying imagination, forever. Neverland serves as both a physical place in the film, but also a metaphor for a place where children do not have to face the realities of adult life. The girls in Little House on the Prairie differ in this way because they are instead faced with responsibilities and burdens. In Peter Pan, the line between reality and make-believe is blurred in childhood, but in Little House on the Prairie the distinction between the two is obvious.

Childhood is a shared period in that it happens over relatively the same period in children’s lives, but the actual lived experiences of children vary both in real life and literature.

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