Language again

A Question of Language


Peter (after Davies boy)
Michael (after Davies boy)
John (after Davies boy)
George (Mr. Darling) (after Davies boy)
Wendy (mispronunciation of "friendy" by Barrie's niece who couldn't pronounce "f". Made it a part of the "fairy language.

What is the meaning of Peter's last name? Where might it come from? What evidence can you give to support a conclusion? Is there evidence in other versions of Peter Pan?

What is the point of the elaborate instructions or directions in the play

Is the dialogue really the way children talk?

Is the dialogue something a child could understand?

Consider Hook’s “curses”:
Odds bobs hammer and tongs!
Split my infinitives!
Obesity and bunions
No, bicarbonate of soda!

What is the meaning
“luff you scalpiins, luff”?
Floreat Etona?

Is this really a play for children? Would they understand the language? What happens to the dialogue in the Disney version

The Disney version is almost rewritten. Little of the Barrie text remains What kinds of cuts are there?
Disney cuts virtually all refences to economics and social status as well as to parents barring their children from the house. The dialog is much simpler than the Barrie dialog.


What can you say about Disney's philosophy that would cause him to make the changes the studio made?Stage directions:

elaborate: set the stage for Peter's entrance "Something uncanny is going to happen, we expect, for a quiver has passed through the room."

From down below in the street, the lighted window must present an unwonted spectacle: the shadows of the children revolving in the room like a merry-go round.This is perhaps what Mr. and Mrs. Darling saw as they came hurrying home from the party brought by Nana, who, you may be sure, has broken her chain.


Some "set pieces":

Pan's entrance Tension builds: Mrs. Darling says something odd has been happening and she has seen a boy at the window and in the room accompanied by a ball of light.

Nana's bark when she smells danger, not when her bark when she is unhappy
Lights go down (and out)

Stage directions imply something is about to happen

Ball of light enters the room

Window opens

Pan enters

Very little of this remains. In part an animated film alters what viewers may find interesting. For Peter to fly on the stage is the most dramatic. Flight in a film version (with real actors) is less spectacular (although with computer graphics it can be more far flung flying). Animated versions are probably the least spectacular since everyone recognizes they are drawn.

The Shadow

The episode with the shadow can be emlarged becasue there are no real lighting problem in the Disney animation so there is no real shadow to worry about.

Use of Color

Films tints red when Tink gets angry,
Sky darkens and film tints bluish when Hook arrives in the Mermaids lagoon.


The action can be rougher and more slapstick than in the other versions

Disney=esque touches

If the play is Barriesque then the film version is Disneyesque and ahs many of the typical chaacteristics of Dinsey films. Smee looks like one the seven dwarfs. The croc looks like Monstro the whale in Pinocchio. The text is "cleaned up" so that it is "purer" and things that might "scare" children are removed, Refefences to parents closing the children out and replacing them with others aer gone, as are any real deaths - even Hook at the end is sen swimming away and not being eaten. Only the mermaids once mention they were trying to drown Wendy.

The confusion about father/son mother/wife is dropped completely.

Text Reconstruction

There are many deviations from the original text.

In the Disney version people know about Peter Pan. John and Michael are playing at being Hook and Peter when the film starts. Wendy is said to be an authority on them. While there is some justification for this (Hook comments in the play in his Act Five soliloquy that he has heard when children play Peter Pan the biggest wants to be Pan, "The force the baby to be Hook. That's where the canker gnaws" Hook laments. So it is perhaps reasonable to let John and Michael play at Peter Pan, bt they get the roles reverse with Michael playing Peter and John playing Hook. Wnedy corrects John saying the Hook should be on his left hand not his right. This is also in direct violation of the original text.

At the end Mr. Darling remembers seeing the pirate ship when he was a boy

Disney seems to draw Tinkerbell like most of the fairies he draws with short skirts, dragon fly wings, looking perhaps like the White Rock girl. There are small Disney trangressions (shaving the bottom of the sea gull) which are also common for Disney with animals. Animals though are usually equated with people in his films. The film is not a musical since all the music is basically in the background music rather than in the world of the film.

There is a great deal about language in film and a kind of class distinction as reflected in language. This is the major focus of Shaw's Pygmalion (later My Fair Lady) where Eliza wants to speak correctly so she can get a job selling flowers in a flower shop rather than on the street.

In terms of the Disney film, there is a clear attempt to tur then film into something Disney saw as more palatable. A kind of sanitized version of Peter Pan appears lacking much of the darkness of the original with its comments on social structure, genderand role confusion and so on.

. Linguistically the play appears at a time when there is much debate going on about language in the British school systems relative to a more "natural" style and a more elaborate Latin based writing. In fact, the school system removes many bits including any syntax which is literary, all specific cultural and material references to middle class, all linguistic play or parody (e.g. "Feeling that Peter was on his way back, the Never Land aawoke into life.(We ought use the pluperfect and say wakened, but woke is better and was always used by Peter), all places where sexuality becomes explicit, all episodes that disrupt the logical (linear) nature of the story.

The result is that Barrie has adults talking in one style, children usually in another. The more elaborate style was frowned upon for children and hence the play was purged of it in some ways.