Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sir James Barrie

Dawn Eden* has an essay about Barrie's heroines over at The Weekly Standard (via First Things). Sample:
In Barrie’s plays, this philosophy is expressed in the essential unchangeability of the relationship between the sexes. Man and woman, by his account, do not grow in their relationship with one another; the most they can do is come to an understanding about who is in control. Successful marital unions, by his account, are built not upon shared sacrifice but shared selfishness, with each spouse granting the other an unalienable fiefdom.
I'm not so sure about this. Perhaps I am too enamored of my own pet theory, developed in opposition to the frequent accusations that Barrie was a suppressed or actual pedophile. (Thirty years ago this was a favored theory in pedophile, ego psychology, and homosexual communities. I don't know if it still has an currency now.) There is no evidence for this.

What we do know is that Barrie's life made up of relationships that were and were not - an unconsummated marriage that ended in divorce, the loss of a brother in an accident, the unofficial adoption of the sons of friends who themselves had an odd and distant marriage - and his plays are likewise filled with relationships that are and are not: Children who are yours but not yours, spouses who are not spouses, women who vanish for days or decades and reappear unaged, women who taken on new personalities to recapture a lost opportunity in youth, and even a butler who is not a butler. The main characters in Barrie's plays are all partly not real, and imagined characters are spoken of as real. I am not sure that singling out the husband-wife aspect of this is quite justified.

Worth thinking about, though.

*Wonderful name. Did her mother give it to her or did she choose it for writing? Bing reveals she was born Dawn Eden Goldstein. She has a book with the intriguing title The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On. Her regular site is The Dawn Patrol.

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