English and Modern Languages


Master of Arts (MA)


Emily Heady


cult of domesticity, J. M. Barrie, liminal spaces, obsession with childhood, Peter Pan, separate spheres


Cultural History | English Language and Literature | European History | History of Gender | Literature in English, British Isles


This work examines JM Barrie's Peter Pan in light of its cultural context. It works to show how the Victorian ideology of the separate spheres narrowed the scope of roles for men and women within the home, which ultimately led to an obsession with childhood that manifested itself strongly in the works of the children of the Victorians, the Edwardians. A study of the Victorian society in which Barrie grew up and first imagined Peter Pan, accompanied by a close reading of the text, reveals Barrie using the various characters' interactions with the title character as cultural artifacts that illuminate and critique rigidly prescribed Victorian gender roles. This study also shows how the ideologies of the time resulted in the obsession with childhood which allowed men to remain boyish but mournful when girls became mothers. Barrie's work provides a journey through which the reader may follow the various characters, and Wendy especially, as they question and accept the prevailing roles of the time, moving through the process of mourning childhood in order to step into adulthood without the lingering vestiges of a lost childhood.