J.M. Barrie Question #30 - An Awfully Big Adventure

by Andrew Birkin

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J.M. Barrie Question #30 - An Awfully Big Adventure

Unread postby Liz » Mon Sep 13, 2004 9:36 am

From Peter Pan:

“What is it?” she asked, anxious about him at once.

“I can’t help you, Wendy. Hook wounded me. I can neither fly nor swim.”

“Do you mean we shall both be drowned?”

“Look how the water is rising.”………….

Peter was not quite like other boys; but he was afraid at last. A tremour ran through him, like a shudder passing over the sea; but on the sea one shudder follows another till there are hundreds of them, and Peter felt just the one. Next moment he was standing erect on the rock again, with that smile on his face and a drum beating within him. It was saying, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.”


and

From the front page of the Evening Standard in regards to Michael’s death by drowning:

The “original” of Peter Pan was named George, [who] was killed in action in March 1915……Now both boys who are most closely associated with the fashioning of Peter Pan are dead. One recalls the words of Peter himself: “To die would be an awfully big adventure.”


Coincidence? What do you think?

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Unread postby lumineuse » Mon Sep 13, 2004 9:48 am

I guess I'm not sure what you are asking, Liz. Is it whether or not the early deaths of the two boys most associated with the creation of Peter Pan was coincidental?
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Sep 13, 2004 11:42 am

lumineuse wrote:I guess I'm not sure what you are asking, Liz. Is it whether or not the early deaths of the two boys most associated with the creation of Peter Pan was coincidental?


Lumineuse, that's a good question too, which I think we should discuss in this thread also. But that is not what I was focusing on. My focus was on just Michael and Peter and the possible significance of the quote in relation to this particular exerpt from PP and Michael's death. HOWEVER, I would now like to open it up to both of these questions. Thanks Lumineuse.
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Unread postby lumineuse » Mon Sep 13, 2004 12:25 pm

I guess I'm still not sure how to respond, but I'll take a stab at it. I think it was probably the worst kind of coincidence imaginable that Barrie's beloved Michael died by drowning, since that was how he envisioned Peter Pan's death. I also can't help but think that the papers using that particular quote must have been excruciatingly painful for Barrie. Given the sad fates that met both George and Michael in their youth, I can't help but wonder whether Barrie's despair at Michael's death might have been exacerbated by feelings of guilt, as if he had somehow put the karmic wheel that had led to their deaths into motion. The coincidences and parallels throughout his life are so uncanny I'm sure I would have had those kinds of thoughts if I had been in his place.
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Sep 13, 2004 12:58 pm

lumineuse wrote:I guess I'm still not sure how to respond, but I'll take a stab at it. I think it was probably the worst kind of coincidence imaginable that Barrie's beloved Michael died by drowning, since that was how he envisioned Peter Pan's death. I also can't help but think that the papers using that particular quote must have been excruciatingly painful for Barrie. Given the sad fates that met both George and Michael in their youth, I can't help but wonder whether Barrie's despair at Michael's death might have been exacerbated by feelings of guilt, as if he had somehow put the karmic wheel that had led to their deaths into motion. The coincidences and parallels throughout his life are so uncanny I'm sure I would have had those kinds of thoughts if I had been in his place.


:capnjack: I'm purposely being rather vague and open-ended with this question because I don't want to put words in your mouths. I just want to see what kinds of thoughts everyone has on this. And remember there is no right or wrong answer. It is all just speculation. You never know what will pop up. For example, I had not given the guilt angle a whole lot of thought in regards to this question, but it makes perfect sense in light of the circumstances. :thumbsup:
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Unread postby nebraska » Mon Sep 13, 2004 1:11 pm

lumineuse wrote:I guess I'm still not sure how to respond, but I'll take a stab at it. I think it was probably the worst kind of coincidence imaginable that Barrie's beloved Michael died by drowning, since that was how he envisioned Peter Pan's death. I also can't help but think that the papers using that particular quote must have been excruciatingly painful for Barrie. Given the sad fates that met both George and Michael in their youth, I can't help but wonder whether Barrie's despair at Michael's death might have been exacerbated by feelings of guilt, as if he had somehow put the karmic wheel that had led to their deaths into motion. The coincidences and parallels throughout his life are so uncanny I'm sure I would have had those kinds of thoughts if I had been in his place.


Life is full of all sorts of those uncanny happenings. People who die after visiting friends for the first time in years or taking a vacation that was long over due. People you meet who have so many of the same feelings and tastes that you are almost identical. Thinking of someone who is just getting ready to telephone. Intuition, is another instance. I think there are spiritual forces at work in the universe that we can only guess at. I find coincidence just a little too much to believe. One some unconscious level, maybe Barrie sensed the future without ever knowing it? Interesting stuff.

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Unread postby Liz » Mon Sep 13, 2004 1:16 pm

nebraska wrote:Life is full of all sorts of those uncanny happenings. People who die after visiting friends for the first time in years or taking a vacation that was long over due. People you meet who have so many of the same feelings and tastes that you are almost identical. Thinking of someone who is just getting ready to telephone. Intuition, is another instance. I think there are spiritual forces at work in the universe that we can only guess at. I find coincidence just a little too much to believe. One some unconscious level, maybe Barrie sensed the future without ever knowing it? Interesting stuff.


It is interesting. And I believe in those forces, too, Nebraska.
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Unread postby nebraska » Mon Sep 13, 2004 1:16 pm

Perhaps I am a little off topic, but I love the way Peter phrases this thought -- to die would be an awfully big adventure. It is, indeed, the final frontier! Religions tell us what to expect, many of us have a sense from things that happen after the death of a loved one. But the truth is, none of us really and truly knows for sure from first hand experience what happens on the other side. And it is interesting that Peter had just one shudder of fear and then was ready to find the answer to the great mystery.

I don't recall that Birkin's book told us much about Barrie's religious beliefs or practices. I wonder if there is any relationship there to the question we are discussing now, including how he made peace with the deaths of "his boys".

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Unread postby fansmom » Mon Sep 13, 2004 1:19 pm

I'm at work, so I can't check the Birkin book, but could Michael swim? Is there a chance that his death was less than accidental? (If he was involved in a questionable relationship, couldn't swim, and entered the water in an area known to be dangerous, is it stretching to think his death may have been somewhat self-induced? Especially since we know what Peter did to himself.)

As for George's death--thousands and thousands of young British men died in WWI. "The flower of England, face down in the mud," as Sting sang. I think George's death has to be a sad, unfortunate sign of the times.

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Unread postby Liz » Mon Sep 13, 2004 1:29 pm

fansmom wrote:I'm at work, so I can't check the Birkin book, but could Michael swim? Is there a chance that his death was less than accidental? (If he was involved in a questionable relationship, couldn't swim, and entered the water in an area known to be dangerous, is it stretching to think his death may have been somewhat self-induced? Especially since we know what Peter did to himself.)


Michael could not swim.
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Unread postby fansmom » Mon Sep 13, 2004 1:37 pm

Liz wrote: Michael could not swim.


So, knowing that, what do you think? Liz? Anyone?

(In case you can't tell, when I read the Birkin book, I had some unanswerable questions about Michael's death.)

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Unread postby lumineuse » Mon Sep 13, 2004 1:52 pm

I also believe in those forces at work. I think the sense of Deja-vu is a powerful manifestation, as well as the happenstances that Nebraska mentioned. I guess that may be why it occurred to me to wonder whether Barrie felt he might be somehow responsible for setting events in motion - there was so much untimely death in his life. I'm trying to imagine how he must have felt at the time. People tend to think that they should have been able to do something to prevent it, or that they somehow caused it, when catastrophes like this happen in their lives.

Fansmon, in the book, it says that there was speculation at the time that Michael's death and that of his friend could have been a suicide pact. Nico said he thought it was probable because Michael was prone to bouts of depression and was in what appeared to be a homosexual relationship. Witnesses said they weren't really struggling. Interesting that you brought that up, because I had forgotten about it until your question made me look in the book. it reinforces my feeling that Barrie must have had a terrible struggle with guilt.
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Sep 13, 2004 1:53 pm

fansmom wrote:
Liz wrote: Michael could not swim.


So, knowing that, what do you think? Liz? Anyone?

(In case you can't tell, when I read the Birkin book, I had some unanswerable questions about Michael's death.)


Again, just speculation here. I think there is a very good chance that Michael's death was self-induced based on the fact that he didn't know how to swim, that lake had a reputation for drownings, he may have been having a homosexual relationship with his friend (which would be unacceptable at that time), he had suffered from depression from the time he began at Eton and his parents died when he was at an impressionable age.
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Sep 13, 2004 2:02 pm

lumineuse wrote:it reinforces my feeling that Barrie must have had a terrible struggle with guilt.


If he did, in fact, have tremendous guilt over this, I think it would only be because of the passage in Peter Pan about drowning. Otherwise, I don't think he would have any more guilt than any other parent would. And even if there is a connection to Peter Pan, rationally, one realizes that it is not Peter Pan or Barrie that would have caused him to take his life, just the way he chose to take his life. Does that make sense? :-?
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Unread postby lumineuse » Mon Sep 13, 2004 2:16 pm

Liz wrote:
lumineuse wrote:it reinforces my feeling that Barrie must have had a terrible struggle with guilt.


If he did, in fact, have tremendous guilt over this, I think it would only be because of the passage in Peter Pan about drowning. Otherwise, I don't think he would have any more guilt than any other parent would. And even if there is a connection to Peter Pan, rationally, one realizes that it is not Peter Pan or Barrie that would have caused him to take his life, just the way he chose to take his life. Does that make sense? :-?


You're making at least as much sense as I am, LOL! I don't know - I just have a feeling about it. Probably more to do with the fact he created a character who would never grow up based on two boys who would never grow old. Given the amount of grief he was in, the guilt any parent would feel (as you pointed out), and the horrible coincidences involved, I can't help but think those thoughts crossed his mind. I don't think people are rational at those times. Obviously this is total speculation on my part!
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