‘To be born is to be wrecked on an island’ Barrie, Introduction to The Coral Island, 1913.
J M Barrie's Peter Pan texts are categorised in the chronotype ‘spaces of exile’ since they concern literary places of imagination and memory cut off from the ‘real’ world of home in both time and space in a way that means they cannot be returned to, or are left only existing in memory. The space of NeverLand is that of childhood play spatialised: fairy houses, mermaid lagoons, pirate ships, woodland dens. As with any mental map, or lost and half-remembered region, NeverLand is also a space characterised by absence or blankness: ‘unexplored patches’ and ‘black shadows’ (Peter and Wendy). To grow up is to leave such spaces and, as its name implies, to do so absolutely with no hope of return.
We have coded three of the Peter Pan texts in different forms (short stories; narrative; drama): Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), Peter and Wendy (1911) and Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up (performed 1904, published 1928) to register how spatiality, and even mappability, develops across the series. Where the maps of all three texts display the distinction between real and fictional places, as Peter’s world moves from Kensington Gardens to NeverLand, this distinction becomes more marked, the place itself more remote and threatening and therefore more charged with tension.