J.M. Barrie Question #31 - Final Analysis

by Andrew Birkin

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J.M. Barrie Question #31 - Final Analysis

Unread postby Liz » Tue Sep 14, 2004 5:02 am

I'm sad to say, this is the final question of our official discussion of J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys. It never ceases to amaze me the deppth to which our discussions take us. Great answers all around, folks. :thumbsup:

But it's not over yet. Keep a sharp eye for the soon to be posted Q & A with Andrew Birkin. :bounce:

So without further ado our final question:
:tear:

Pamela said a few days ago that she was “still trying to put the pieces of the jigsaw that was J.M. Barrie, together”. Do you think you have? What was your opinion of Barrie by the time you finished the book? Did your opinion change over the course of your reading? How and why? Now, after this discussion, what is your assessment of Sir James Matthew Barrie?
Last edited by Liz on Wed Sep 15, 2004 6:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby scarlett » Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:47 am

I describe my experience reading The Lost Boys as a rollcoaster ride. Very emotional, ranging from great sympathy and caring for Barrie during the early years, as a social misfit, abused (and I use that term intentionally) by his mother. Then, I began to see him as a selfish manipulator -- even if his goal was understandable, to have the love and companionship of children. And, as I've said before, I firmly believe he had pedophilic leanings but I also believe (as firmly) that he never acted on them. He was undoubtedly a genius, an incredibly gifted writer and observer. All in all, Barrie is one of the most fascinating people I've ever "encountered". Even knowing that Finding Neverland has whitewashed the story, I still can't wait to see Johnny's portrayal of him.

One edited note: Sorry, I was remiss in not thanking Liz and DITHOT for their incredible work with the ONBC and in particular our Barrie project. What a coup getting Andrew Birkin to answer questions. You gals go above and beyond. Thanks.
Last edited by scarlett on Tue Sep 14, 2004 8:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: J.M. Barrie Question - Final Analysis

Unread postby KYwoman » Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:56 am

Liz wrote:I'm sad to say, this is the final question of our official discussion of J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys. It never ceases to amaze me the deppth to which our discussions take us. Great answers all around, folks. :thumbsup:

But it's not over yet. Keep a sharp eye for the soon to be posted Q & A with Andrew Birkin. :bounce:

So without further ado our final question:
:tear:

Pamela said a few days ago that she was “still trying to put the pieces of the jigsaw that was J.M. Barrie, together”. Do you think you have? What was your opinion of Barrie by the time you finished the book? Did your opinion change over the course of your reading? How and why? Now, after this discussion, what is your assessment of Sir James Matthew Barrie?


First let me say thanks to you, Liz, and DITHOT for posting such great questions for discussion. Some were brain twisters, to be sure. I'm not sure I have a handle on Barrie or not. I still feel there was something strange about the close relationship he had with those boys, but I know I'm influenced by the times in which I live. He was a very fascinating man, and I would NEVER have read about his life if it weren't for the movie and Johnny' s portrayal, so thanks to him too. I'm really looking forward to this movie to see his take on Barrie. I know he tends to want to see all aspects of his characters and make them three dimensional, no matter their motivation and history. His whole philosophy of looking beyond what you see and hear and to look under all that. I agree with scarlett about the rollercoaster ride of emotions. Barrie's early life generated a lot of sympathy, but as an adult he was often less than sympathetic.

Thanks again to everyone for their insights and conversation on the topic of JM Barrie. It's often like being in English Lit class, but more FUN (and no grades!).
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Unread postby Veronica » Tue Sep 14, 2004 8:09 am

I over all thought he was a genious & a wonderful person but he does have a twist. His jealousy towards the boys friends was one. He could write beautifully & that is how Im going to remember him.

We all have scars from different things that happened in their lives. I dont think the feelings that were going on in inside him were all Barrys fault. Why would a mother or a father allow him to spend that much time with there kids. That to me was odd. How could Arthur allow Barry to give so much to them. Sylvias feelings towards Barry were more than they should have been & the money was always there too. I have said this before. things really havent changed too much through the years. money, adultry, homosexuality all of it has been lurking for years.
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Unread postby fansmom » Tue Sep 14, 2004 12:57 pm

Oh yes, my opinion of Barrie changed in the course of the book.

I'd been familiar with the Disney "Peter Pan," and then saw it Barrie's play a few years ago and was shocked. The undercurrents that we've discussed (Freudian, violent, sexual, etc.) were so different from the Disney version, and I was somewhat disturbed that I'd let my daughter, who I think was about 10 at the time, see the play. I quizzed her gently afterwards, and was relieved to learn that she hadn't seen what I'd seen. She called it "weird" in comparison with the familiar Disney story, and that was that.

As a result, even before I read the Birkin book, I suspected that all was not sweetness and light with Barrie. As others have said, I was saddened at the damage inflicted upon him at an early age, but was also made quite uncomfortable with his manipulation of others. Power corrupts, and Barrie's money and influence, combined with his psychological scars, made him more emotionally corrupt than I had suspected. A fascinating man, and some fascinating discussions on the ONBC.

As always, a big THANK YOU to our moderators. You two rock! I'm already looking forward to our next discussion!

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Re: J.M. Barrie Question - Final Analysis

Unread postby Liz » Tue Sep 14, 2004 2:42 pm

KYwoman wrote:First let me say thanks to you, Liz, and DITHOT for posting such great questions for discussion. Some were brain twisters, to be sure. I'm not sure I have a handle on Barrie or not. I still feel there was something strange about the close relationship he had with those boys, but I know I'm influenced by the times in which I live. He was a very fascinating man, and I would NEVER have read about his life if it weren't for the movie and Johnny' s portrayal, so thanks to him too. I'm really looking forward to this movie to see his take on Barrie. I know he tends to want to see all aspects of his characters and make them three dimensional, no matter their motivation and history. His whole philosophy of looking beyond what you see and hear and to look under all that. I agree with scarlett about the rollercoaster ride of emotions. Barrie's early life generated a lot of sympathy, but as an adult he was often less than sympathetic.

Thanks again to everyone for their insights and conversation on the topic of JM Barrie. It's often like being in English Lit class, but more FUN (and no grades!).


DITHOT and I enjoy immensely discussing these books with all of you. It is great fun and an honor to have all of you participate. I think this has been one of our best discussions. I agree with you totally, KY, when you say that there was something strange about his relationship with the boys, but that this feeling is influenced by the times in which we live. I think he was a genius who's adult life was heavily influenced by the death of his brother, but mostly by the relationship he had with his mother. And even though I think his relationship with the boys was odd, I don't think he was a pedophile. I think the damage his mother did to his psyche precluded him from having a normal healthy relationship with any woman--even though he displayed attraction to them.

Oh, by the by, grades will be posted on the New Board this afternoon after 3:00 PST. ;-)
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The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby Liz » Tue Sep 14, 2004 2:55 pm

scarlett wrote:I describe my experience reading The Lost Boys as a rollcoaster ride. Very emotional, ranging from great sympathy and caring for Barrie during the early years, as a social misfit, abused (and I use that term intentionally) by his mother. Then, I began to see him as a selfish manipulator -- even if his goal was understandable, to have the love and companionship of children. And, as I've said before, I firmly believe he had pedophilic leanings but I also believe (as firmly) that he never acted on them. He was undoubtedly a genius, an incredibly gifted writer and observer. All in all, Barrie is one of the most fascinating people I've ever "encountered". Even knowing that Finding Neverland has whitewashed the story, I still can't wait to see Johnny's portrayal of him.


Good analogy, Scarlett. It was a rollercoaster ride for me too. My opinions of him changed with each chapter. But what a ride! I had no idea he would be such a fascinating man. :-O

And I forgot to say that I want to thank Johnny (as Nebraska did) for being the impetus for my reading this book--and all the other books we've read--most of which I never would have thought to read otherwise. :cool:

And I want to thank Andrew Birkin for presenting the facts in such a unique and interesting way. :thumbsup:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Sep 14, 2004 6:30 pm

I was not sure what to expect at all when I first started the book. At first, I found it to be a bit hard to read but the more I learned about JMB the more fascinated I was with him. I think all of your answers today touch what I felt. From pity, to admiration, to icky, to fascinated. He was a very complex individual and a beautiful writer. I am so glad I got to know more about him before I see the movie. When Liz and I were working up the questions for this book we really didn't know what to expect. You all have made it a very thought provoking and fun discussion. You all always make me think of things in ways I would never have seen on my own. Thank You! :angel:

By the way, Liz and I conferred and all grades are A+++!!
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Unread postby Pamela » Tue Sep 14, 2004 6:30 pm

I want to echo everyone else's thanks to our fabulous moderators, Liz & DITHOT for the incredible job they do with choosing the book, putting together the "tidbits" (I just love those tidbits!) challenging us with such insightful questions, providing the give & take on the board and hosting the Sunday evening chat. Getting Birkin to agree to answer questions from our group is certainly the coup d'etat. This most certainly is a book I would not have found myself reading had it not been for Johnny taking on this role and reading it with all of you here at ONBC. Many thanks to all the ladies who have participated. How wonderful it is to see what I have read not only through my eyes but yours, as well.

As far as Barrie goes, prior to this experience I felt knowledgable that I knew that the author of "Peter Pan" was J. M. Barrie and that his relationship with young boys may have been questionable. Now, I have more questions than ever! I just found him to be such a tragic, sympathetic and complicated individual and I find myself eager to read more about him. I did appreciate the fact that Birkin left his personal opinions regarding Barrie out, but am anxious to see what "Barrie experts" have to say. I do anticipate that "Finding Neverland" will not delve deeply into Barrie's past & problems, but am also sure that having read the book will only enhance my enjoyment of the movie. I am really bad at good-byes, especially when I am saying goodbye to a book I have loved. I loved this book.


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Last edited by Pamela on Thu Sep 16, 2004 12:03 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Unread postby lumineuse » Tue Sep 14, 2004 6:43 pm

I had no idea who Barrie was as a person until I read this book. I knew nothing about him. I wanted to like him because I am a fantasy fan, and I grew up loving Mary Martin's Peter Pan. I found him a bit difficult to like, for reasons that have already been mentioned by you all - the jealousy, the manipulativeness, his shallow relationships with women. I don't think his relationship with the boys per se bothers me as much as it does some of you, but it was odd to say the least. As a counselor, I found him to be fascinating from a psychological viewpoint - just the kind of person I'd like to delve into more deeply. Unfortunately, he is going to remain a mystery to all of us, as he probably was to many people when he live. I very much look forward to seeing Johnny in the role, as I'm sure we all do.

My sincere thanks to Liz and DITHOT for making this fascinating discussion possible. You guys rock! And of course to Mr. Depp, without whose inspiration I would never have picked up the book in the first place. And finally, to all who participated - thank you for broadening my world.
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Unread postby nebraska » Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:52 pm

Ditto to everything you have all said. Our moderators are fabulous, the tidbits are wonderful, and the discussion has been a growth experience! And like many of you, I think I have more questions about Barrie now than I did when I started. What an interesting man!

Referring to the movie as a "whitewashed version" of the story is probably accurate; at the very least it will be a dumbed-down version. The complexity of the story probably wouldn't translate well to a movie.

Johnny will no doubt know more about Barrie and add deeper layers to his protrayal than was written in the script as he always does. It will be a lovely stand-alone story in its own right.

Thanks to everyone for their participation. And remember, we aren't done yet. Mr. Birkin has yet to give us HIS insight. Perhaps the best is yet to come.......

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Unread postby Still-Rather-Timid » Tue Sep 14, 2004 11:19 pm

From Pamela:

Now, I have more questions than ever! I just found him to be such a tragic, sympathetic and complicated individual and I find myself eager to read more about him. I did appreciate the fact that Birkin left his personal opinions regarding Barrie out, but am anxious to see what "Barrie experts" have to say. I do anticipate that "Finding Neverland" will not delve deeply into Barrie's past & problems, but am also sure that having read the book will only enhance my enjoyment of the movie. I am really bad at good-byes, especially when I am saying goodbye to a book I have loved. I loved this book.


I feel the same way, and really sorry that this discussion is over. Even when I haven't had the energy at the end of the day to participate, I've read and deeply appreciated all the responses. I've loved this book so much, and I am so happy to find others who have cherished it as much as I have. Mostly I feel a deep sorrow for Barrie, and a kind of awe. He suffered so many losses. I, too, will read more about him (when I am done with David Copperfield, the 900-page Victorian novel I am reading and teaching now), and I'm grateful for all the bibliographical information I've found here about what to read next. Thanks so much, Liz and DITHOT! This discussion has inspired my teaching this semester, in addition to all the other joy it's given me. I may add Peter Pan to one of my syllabi in the future.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Sep 15, 2004 8:21 am

Thank you everyone for your kind words, but, please remember ONBC is nothing without the wonderful participation of our members! :grouphug:
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Unread postby suec » Wed Sep 15, 2004 6:10 pm

Sorry I am late chipping in here. I still haven't really made my mind up about him. I knew nothing at all about him when I started this book. I had never seen or read Peter Pan and so I came to Barrie competely "cold". I started by feeling quite sympathetic towards him and I also felt sorry for him because of the great sorrows in his life. However, I can't say I like him as a character much. To me, there was something not right about his feelings towards some of the boys - too intense, maybe. I see him as an interloper in the family, definitely, which has had quite a powerful negative influence on my response towards him. I also was a lot more interested in some of the other characters than I was Barrie himself. It was fascinating and moving to see how the boys developed as they grew up. It will be different when I see him on screen, obviously! Thanks Liz and DIDHOT for all the great work on this book. Great stuff as always.

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Unread postby Liz » Wed Sep 15, 2004 6:29 pm

suec wrote:Sorry I am late chipping in here. I still haven't really made my mind up about him. I knew nothing at all about him when I started this book. I had never seen or read Peter Pan and so I came to Barrie competely "cold". I started by feeling quite sympathetic towards him and I also felt sorry for him because of the great sorrows in his life. However, I can't say I like him as a character much. To me, there was something not right about his feelings towards some of the boys - too intense, maybe. I see him as an interloper in the family, definitely, which has had quite a powerful negative influence on my response towards him. I also was a lot more interested in some of the other characters than I was Barrie himself. It was fascinating and moving to see how the boys developed as they grew up. It will be different when I see him on screen, obviously! Thanks Liz and DIDHOT for all the great work on this book. Great stuff as always.


And Thank you, SueC, for your entertaining reports from the field.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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