Delimit Imagination? A Comparison of Unabridged and Abridged Versions of Peter Pan

  • Scarlet Pui Wah Lee Via Gaetano Rappini 11, Roma, Lazio
  • Anna Wing Bo Tso The Open University of Hong Kong
Keywords: imagination, emotion, experience, psyche development, abridgement, education


Adaptations of English literature have thrived in the last decade to cope with the ever-expanding market of teaching English. The reading public seems to endorse it as a pedagogic device to increase children’s interest in reading and improve their language. Whether it has increased language proficiency remains a matter of debate. Our main concern, however, is the cultivation interest in literature through abridgement and to impact young learners’ imagination. At first glance, abridgement seems to open the door to the world of the classics so that children may have first-hand experience of literature, yet to achieve its ultimate purpose one needs imagination vis-à-vis the reading text. Does the abridgement which favours less demanding verbal dexterity operate at the expense of children’s imagination?

Pertaining to the question, we conducted a comparative study of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (1911), the unabridged version, and G. Clemen’s abridged version (2000), their contexts and lexicons, in particular the deletion of some famous lines and passages, the replacement of some significant expressions and, eventually, how all these impact children’s imagination. While it can be argued that the abridged text makes reading easier for learners, its characters have largely been flattened and the recurring theme of not growing up has been disparaged. The interplay of sexuality becomes banal. A visible example is the omission of the poignant start “All children, except one, grow up”.

Our assertion is that abridgement should be executed and refined not only for the advantage of lightening the linguistic burden but, more importantly, of nurturing the imagination in the young minds. To unleash their imagination, light but purposeful and exuberant reading with a fine adjustment of authenticity and aesthetics is deemed necessary and beneficial. Ultimately, children will improve their language and develop a life-long interest in English literature.


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