Peter Rabbit as a Coming of Age Story?

While reviewing “Peter Rabbit”, our class discussed to what extent it was a coming of age story. Like many books of this genre, there is a young protagonist who is accustomed to a certain way of life but wishes to break out of this pattern and to embark on some kind of adventure. This journey can take many forms, but its main literary objective is to instill an evolution or development of sorts within the protagonist, so that, by the end, he or she has learned something about themselves or their relationship to their surrounding world.

Taking place in the Victorian Era and encouraging the lesson of conforming to social norms, we have to wonder how much this book is about individuality the way that other coming of age stories are. Peter is warned by his mother about the dangers of the outside world, and those cautions come to fruition for him. Instead of overcoming the obstacles that he faces with wit or connections, Peter escapes only by sheer luck. He comes home with his proverbial tail between his legs and is punished for it. He is ultimately re-confined in the safety and limited beliefs of his domestic space.

This makes me wonder if this was the extent of a coming of age story in the Victorian Era or perhaps just for Beatrix Potter — that it takes going out on one’s own to have the traditional beliefs and social structures confirmed for an individual. This kind of story, to me, would reproduce these fears and cautionary behavior in Peter, or in the generation being read to.

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