Analysis of the Character of Gene from the John Knowles’ Coming of Age Novel A Separate Peace
When Gene returns to Devon as an adult, he finds the tree that was the location of where Phineas first got injured. He notices that it looks old and weak instead of intimidating like it used to be. The tree reminds Gene that as time goes on, things change and eventually stop. Gene relates this to the love he and Phineas once had. He also relates it to death caused by violence in war and in other cases.
In this passage, the tree being weak from age represents several different factors in Gene’s life that have changed and grown to be less important since he left Devon. It shows that as an adult, Gene is now more mature and seems to have found his identity. In addition, this passage shows readers how Gene’s old priorities, which used to be so important in his life, are now in the past. This is an important passage because it shows Gene remembering how his hatred and envy were taken away by Phineas’s death, and how the war had taken away their childhood innocence.
After Phineas wears the obnoxious pink shirt as an emblem and gets away with it, Gene sees that Phineas can escape the rules. Gene recognizes that Phineas has such a charming personality, that he can talk his way out of trouble. Gene is jealous that Phineas can do this, but he justifies his feelings by telling himself that it is okay to be jealous of your best friend sometimes.
This passage shows Gene’s jealousy of Phineas getting stronger. It demonstrates Gene’s own lack of confidence in himself and how he so badly wants to be like Phineas. Gene justifying his jealousy of Phineas shows how he thinks that his feelings will not have consequences, which is proven wrong later in the story. This passage is important because it reveals the beginning of the jealous nature that becomes Gene’s own enemy within himself. Gene forms his own enemy just as a lot of the boys at Devon use World War II to form their enemies.
Gene is very surprised after Phineas breaks a school swimming record and says he does not want to tell people about it. He is in awe of how Phineas breaks it so easily, and he finds it amazing. When Gene looks at the stop watch, he is still in shock that Phineas broke the record and will not say anything about it.
This passage gives one example of Phineas’s many natural talents. This natural talent of Phineas’s makes Gene jealous, and it leaves him wondering why he is not good enough to do the same thing. In the passage, when Gene describes Phineas’s accomplishment as schoolboy glamour, it represents how much he truly admires Phineas. The shock that Gene feels after he sees the stop watch is so great, that it later turns into envy and resentment, which ends up causing Gene to lose Phineas.
Gene makes up in his head that Phineas and him are rivals competing to see who is better at academics and sports. Gene soon figures out that this is not true, and that Phineas was never trying to be better than him. In this moment, Gene realizes that Phineas is a better person than him, and he does not like it.
This passage exposes Gene’s competitive qualities. The theme of making your own enemies is shown because the rivalry is all inside of Gene’s head. He creates a situation where he has to be better than Phineas at everything, and he justifies his outstanding need to be better by assuming that Phineas also wants to be better than him. The passage also shows that Phineas is an excellent friend to Gene. Although Gene finally thinks he and Phineas are even in something, enmity, the reality is that Phineas had beat him again.
Phineas has a small amount of suspicion that it was Gene who made him fall off the branch, but he apologizes to Gene for ever thinking that was the case. After this happens, Gene realizes that Phineas would never accuse him because he is so trusting and he always sees the best in things. Gene figures that Phineas is probably even making a new commandment about friendship to make up for thinking Gene caused the accident.
This passage displays how Phineas is very trusting and kind towards Gene. In this passage, Phineas demonstrates a kind of willful blindness to the fact that Gene caused his accident because he wants so badly to trust that Gene would never do anything to hurt him on purpose. Having this undeniable trust in Gene later causes negative consequences for Phineas. Gene knows that Phineas would never accuse him, so he shys away from telling the truth to keep their friendship alive. This reveals the theme of identity because Phineas and Gene are so close that they almost share one identity with each other, and they want to keep it that way.
A fight breaks out between Gene and Quackenbush after Quackenbush calls Gene maimed. Gene thinks of why he fought Quackenbush, and the thought that he did it for Phineas crosses his mind. Gene does not think that Phineas would have been thankful to him because Phineas does not usually like people helping or protecting him. Gene, however, feels like he fought for himself and not because he wants to defend Phineas.
This passage presents an important moment for Gene, as he realizes he is now the powerful one who is protecting Phineas. This makes Gene feel stronger and better than Phineas. Gene getting into a fight symbolizes how the atmosphere of his life changes drastically when Phineas is not around. This passage also shows Phineas’s qualities of loyalty and independence. In this passage, Gene is starting to feel more deeply connected to Phineas. He feels as though he is fighting for himself because he has taken on a large part of Phineas’s identity, and he is now close to the same person as Phineas. This relates to Phineas and Gene’s deep level of dependency on each other, which later on causes problems between the two of them.
The boys from Devon are working on the railroad, and they see a train filled with military troops who appear to be in good spirits. The boys realize that the troops are going to war, and the magnitude of the war hits them. After this, they have no words, and they only have thoughts. Gene could not help but think that they are all so small and unimportant compared to the huge, terrible war that is going on.
The troops on the train in this passage represent for Gene and the rest of the boys the transition between the innocence of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. This passage shows the boys facing the reality that they soon will no longer be at Devon, but instead at war where they will have to fight. Additionally, the passage informs the reader about what life felt like for teenage boys during World War II. Gene seems to think that even having the courage to enlist in the military is heroic. This is foreshadowing used to hint that Gene will start to strongly consider to enlist in the war. The change from Gene being a conformist to being more attracted to unconventional things is also displayed in this passage.
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When Gene returns to Devon as an adult, he finds the tree that was the location of where Phineas first got injured. He notices that it looks old and weak […]