J. M. Barrie : Literary contribution

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      Sir James Matthew Barrie : The place of Barrie in the history of contemporary literature is highly significant and quite unique. While George Bernard Shaw had intellectualised the drama, which is to be a food for thought and not merely an instrument for relaxation, Barrie did the opposite thing. While Shaw was anti-sentimental, Barrie played on sentiment and gave very little hint of social criticism in his charming plays. In this respect he was the direct antithesis of Shaw. The sentimental appeal of his plays made him the most popular dramatist of his time, for, after all, the play-going public, as a body, is sentimental at heart.

J. M. Barrie's tender and whimsical humour and a touch of high poetry in his nature had disarmed the supporters of realism and the vogue of his plays continued till the thirties, when the mental climate had changed.
J. M. Barrie

      J. M. Barrie's tender and whimsical humour and a touch of high poetry in his nature had disarmed the supporters of realism and the vogue of his plays continued till the thirties, when the mental climate had changed. His plays are the plays of escapism. He turned his back on the unpleasant realities of life and sought refuge in a world of make-believe and charming fantasy. His immortal creation in fiction Peter Pan, who refuses to grow up in a modern world, is an autobiographical representation of himself. Some of his well-known plays are Quality Street, The Admirable Crichton, Peter Pan, Alice sit-by the Fire, a Slice of Life and The Twelve Pound Look.

      In The Admirable Crichton he puts the butler Crichton, the one efficient man in the group of characters, in charge of the social superiors who are landed on a deserted island, only for the sentimental fun of it and when the episode is over, the butler is glad to resume his proper place in the society. The hint of social criticism is there but it is eclipsed in the atmosphere of romance and fantasy produced in the play. That is the technique of Barrie in all his good plays. Reality and romance are mingled together and "beneath the surface of fantastic humour is a core of serious thought and a satirical, often a cynical view of the society of his own day."

      On the technical side, J. M. Barrie shows some remarkable qualities. His characters are usually slight but charming and he shows a tender affection for the day-dreamers and the failures of the world whom he has painted with great skill. "His dialogue is good and is handled with the sensitivity of one who had a real feeling for words." Barrie was a strong individualist and founded no 'school of drama'. His influence as a dramatist is negligible. Barrie was also a novelist and was the most important member of "The Kailyard School" in Scotland, a group of regional novelists. He "produced romantic and sentimental novels of the Scottish countryside in many of which accuracy of background was sacrificed desire for success."

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