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Hallman, R.J. (1969). The Archetypes in Peter Pan. J. Anal. Psychol., 14(1):65-73.

(1969). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 14(1):65-73

The Archetypes in Peter Pan

Ralph J. Hallman, Ph.D.

The Theme, the unfolding plot, the characterizations, and even the setting of Peter Pan offer themselves transparently to an interpretation from the framework of Jung's theory of archetypes.

The theme of this fantasy concerns 1, the eternal child (Jung, 1951 and 1951a), which remains within all of us, and 2, the sadly wistful reluctance we experience in sacrificing the magic and charm of this infantile existence in the interests of the more demanding claims of the external world. The Kore, the eternal child, emerges as one of the archetypes (Jung, 1951a, C.W., p. 183) which makes up the collective unconscious and which come to be projected in a variety of disguises. As a part of the system of the collective unconscious, this symbol appears in all cultures (1951, C.W., p. 158 ff). It is the Christ-child, the little boy into whom Faust was transformed, the dwarf, the hermaphroditus, the orphan child, the god, the eternally youthful hermit. Psychologically, it is the ‘pre-conscious, childhood aspect of the collective unconscious’. That is, it is a form of libido which expresses itself in ceaselessly recurring patterns of behaviour.

The plot unfolds as a series of symbolic events. The force which propels the plot and provides its structure is the psychological mechanism of regression. This motif also accounts for the dramatic quality of the plot, for it focuses upon that crisis in the life of the child involving an exchange of the pleasure principle for the reality principle, wholeness of personality for a fragmentation of functions, and fantasy for usefulness.

Jung describes this crisis as the replacement of the archetype by the image of oneself as a separate individual. To be sure, Barrie's treatment of the plot de-emphasizes the struggle in which the hero-child engages in order successfully to win life; and nowhere do pathological symptoms emerge as the regression proceeds. Barrie's purpose is to entertain, and he limits himself to those events which adults can re-live safely. He allows the child in us to experience pleasure once more and to do so without endangering our adult achievements.

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