A few months ago, I shared that the kids and I went through a Peter Rabbit unit study. It was the first time in years that I’d read the story, and it delighted me more than I remembered (and possibly more than it delighted my children, as well).
What was most delightful was the discovery that Peter fits the hero’s arc beautifully. Not so much in terms of character growth, but in terms of the plot.
1. The forbidden, other land- in Peter’s case, Mr. McGregor’s garden’s being forbidden is what stirs his curiosity into action. Big surprise.
2. The entrance to the other world-Peter enters with little trouble, having no idea the dangers and adventure that await.
3. The adventure-Peter’s lettuce eating adventure changes suddenly when he encounters Mr. McGregor. What was already losing its appeal (eating too many veggies=upset stomach) now turns into a hostile environment. Peter has to navigate obstacles like ensnaring nets and cats, all while evading the perturbed gardener.
4. The escape-at last Peter’s desperation exceeds his fear. He darts past his would-be jailer and squeezes out from under the fence.
5. The return to real life-there and back again? Perhaps. Peter’s lost his clothes, shoes, and it may be concluded, the desire for forbidden greens. He still returns to the garden later with his cousin Benjamin Bunny, but only because he is persuaded. It’s as though his self-direction is left behind along with his curiosity.