In both stories, Peter has an air of childish innocence and enthusiasm about him, and a bit of an ego, as well. He is rarely sad, and he learns how to make his own entertainment and fun, but he is lonely, and wishes he could play with other boys and girls in the first book. In both books, he ends up alone, although Mamie does bring him gifts until she grows up, and Wendy does come back for "spring cleaning," at least for a few years. In this, Peter is really a sad character, because he cannot give up his desire to always be a boy and have fun no matter what happens, and so, he is his own worst enemy. Never growing up means that he will always be alone, which is a sad way to go through life. In the play, Peter really becomes a "Betwixt and Between," because he lives in his own fantasy world, forgetting his old friends and the people he cares about. Peter in the book ends up alone, as well, and although he has the fairies and the birds, he knows the joy of love, and will never experience it again. Both characters are brave and unafraid to try new things, but both remain children in a world that only allows that for so long.
Peter clings to childish fantasy in these books because it seems that many adults look back at their childhoods with the same kind of fantasy and fond memories, and many never want to grow up and face the responsibilities that entails. Many people believe that JM Barrie was that man who never wanted to grow up, which is why his stories are so rich in detail and the magical observances of youth. However, even Barrie acknowledges that he based Peter and many other characters on the Llewelyn Davies boys, and even named some of his characters after them, like Michael and Peter himself. In his Dedication to the published play, the dedication is written "To the Five" (the five Llewelyn Davies boys), and he became the boys unofficial guardian when their parents both died.
Barrie biography notes, "Peter Pan' evolved gradually from the stories that Barrie told to Sylvia Llewelyn Davies's five young sons. [...] When Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her husband died, Barrie was the unofficial guardian of their sons, but in reality he was perhaps more a sixth child than an adoptive father" (Editors). A Web site dedicated to Barrie is even more convinced about the relationship between Peter Pan and the Llewelyn boys. In fact, the illustrations in "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens" were based on George, and so were other aspects of Peter Pan (Berkin). Peter clings to childish fantasy because Barrie clung to that fantasy throughout his life, but also because of Barrie's close relationship with the Llewelyn boys, who inspired him and gave him even more reasons why boys should remain young forever.
Both of these books bring Peter Pan and the magical Never Land to life. They create an alternative world where children are the masters and they can be happy in a life without adults. In both books, Peter is endearing and brave, resourceful and engaging, and his magical world filled with fairies and pirates seems to be the perfect environment for little boys who never want to grow up. In Never Land, the rules of society do not apply, and it is the same with Peter's small universe in Kensington Gardens. Edwardian society was full of rules, social castes, and social constructs that were difficult to break. People had to act a certain way, and there were boundaries everywhere. In Never Land, there were no boundaries, only freedom and fun, so the story could be viewed as a poke at rigid Edwardian society, allowing it to take a look at itself and see just what it was missing. However, Peter's lonely life is not enviable, and this may be Barrie's view of his own life. A man, trapped in a boy's mind and body, he may have been just as lonely as the Peter Pan he created.
Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan: Or the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928.
Barrie, J.M. The Little White Bird. New York: Scribner, 1913.
Birkin, Andrew. "Introduction." JMBarrie.co.uk. 2007. 15 April 2008. http://www.jmbarrie.co.uk/index.html
Editors. "J.M. Barrie." Kirjasto.sci.fi. 2002. 15 April 2008. http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/jmbarrie.htm