There is perhaps no children’s story sadder than that in Peter Pan. Originally the character of a play by James M. Barrie, today Peter is largely a beloved character seen as entertainment for children, mostly known these days from the classic Disney film or the musical starring Mary Martin that most Boomers grew up with. Peter is the boy who doesn’t grow up, what Shakespeare called “boy eternal,” and who lives in a world filled with freedom and adventure, where there is nothing to do all day but play, be with friends, and have none of the responsibilities of adulthood that, to him, seem oppressive.

But Barrie wasn’t really talking about kids when he wrote the play. He had more serious issues in mind. The inspiration for the Peter ...

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