A Separate Peace
Analysis of Pivotal Moment in "A Separate Peace"
The book, “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles is a coming of age story of two best friends, Gene and Finny. Although the story is told through Gene’s point of view, his perception of Finny is most important as Finny develops psychologically throughout the book. A pivotal moment in Finny’s psychological development is Brinker’s investigation in Chapter 11, when Finny finally acknowledges it was Gene who pushed him and this changes Finny’s innocent view of the world.
Finny sees everyone how he wants to see them, assuming the world is a fundamentally friendly place.
In life he always thinks the best of people and counts no one as his enemy, just as he dislikes games with winners and losers. Blitzball, the game he invents where everyone competes furiously but no one wins, shows Finny’s attitude toward life. According to Gene, these qualities make Finny unique. But, Finny’s inability to see others as hostile is his weakness as well as his strength; he refuses to believe any dark motives toward Gene.
Finny’s naïve mindset makes him assume that everyone thinks like he does. This carefree, self-absorbed attitude is one of the roots of Gene’s jealousy of Finny, although Finny, aware only of himself and seeing the good in others, never seems to pick up on Gene’s inner turmoil.
Gene’s resentment of his best friend caused him to hold dark, unspoken feelings toward Finny which led him to push Finny off of the tree, making him unable to play sports, his most notable skill. But of course Finny, seeing the best in everyone, refuses to even think that his best friend could have caused the accident. When Gene tries to confess that it was his fault for the accident, Finny refuses to talk about what he doesn’t want to hear. Getting upset at Gene, Finnt tells him, “If you don’t shut up, I’ll kill you.” However, Brinker’s investigation in chapter 11 shows Finny’s psychological transition when he is finally able to listen to what he doesn’t want to hear. The first time Gene tried to confess that it was his fault; Finny immediately gets upset and simply won’t talk about it. On the other hand, Brinker/s trial forces Finny to accept the truth and illustrates Finny’s psychological development, considering Finny doesn’t react like he did the first time Gene tried to talk about the fall. It takes Finny longer to get angry, and he is more tolerant to talk about the accident.
When Brinker asked Finny if he had ever considered that he didn’t just fall out of the tree, implying that someone pushed him, Gene describes Finny’s reaction as it “touched an interesting point Phineas had been turning over in his mind for a long time. I could tell that because his obstinate, competitive look left his face as his mind became engaged for the first time.” (Pg.169) Finny is then open to talking about the accident and it takes him much longer to get upset than it did the first time. Once Leper told the truth about the fall, Finny became upset again as “The words shocked Phineas into awareness.” (Pg.177) Finny’s mindset shifts from seeing a world with no wrong to an understanding, less naïve view.
Analysis "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles
In A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Gene is a teenage boy who attends a boys boarding school in New England with one of his only friends, Phineas. The author uses conflict to display competition and jealousy between Gene and Finny. In this story, there is an unusual friendship, between Gene, an intellectual, and Phineas, a handsome and popular athlete. Gene and Phineas formed an illusion of companionship, but there was always a silent rivalry between them in Gene’s mind.
Although they seem to be best friends, it always seems as if Gene was jealous of Phineas. Gene is lost within his own identity and finds comfort and relief in Finny’s identity. You know that their friendship is not a normal one when Gene purposely pushes his ‘best friend’ off of a tree to sabotage him. In the novel, Knowles describes the internal conflict within Gene.
The hatred in this book is focused inside Gene, the main character. Gene developed hatred and jealousy towards his friend and classmate Finny which is illustrated in the following line: “Finny could get away with anything.
I couldn’t help envying him…which was perfectly normal. There was no harm in envying even your best friend a little.”() Genes’ hatred and jealousy are uncontrollable and, inevitable. Gene thought this feeling towards Phineas was completely normal and it will go away in time.
However, as time went on and Gene matured he found out that his feeling was much more than little jealousy but it has turned into hate. In chapter 2, as Finny is talking to a teacher, Gene realized that Finny is easygoing and has a good relationship with the teachers and people in general, and Gene says, ‘It was hypnotism. I was beginning to see that Phineas could get away with anything. I couldn’t help envying that a little.'(25). As the story develops, any reader can see that the jealousy that Gene has for Finny is becoming intense, and Gene is beginning to become intolerant of Phineas.
Gene merely can not manage the fact that Finny is so compassionate, so athletic, so perfect. As he put it, ‘Phineas could acquire away with anything.'(18), In order to protect himself from accepting Finny’s compassion, Gene creates a soundless competition with Finny and convinced himself that Finny is intentionally trying to destroy his school assignment. Gene decides he and Finny are covetous of each other, and everything becomes a competition.
The Relationship Between Gene & Finny
“Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die. And it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow, and the triumphs that are the aftermath of war.” (Herbert Clark Hoover). This speech, made by Mr. Hoover illustrates the misconception of war that is passed down by generation, filled by over-glorified lies, which enthrall the youth to join the war effort, where they are merely pawns in a global conflict. The misconception of war that the youths’ have parallels their fear of the enemy, caused by the aura of warfare.
Although, this enemy often is a figment of their imagination, it makes the youth create boundaries, to such an extent that they start to believe that the boundaries are fortifying themselves, so that no enemy, externally, can harm them, while their internal enemy (themselves), creates internal conflicts, which long-go unresolved. By having these unresolved conflicts, it creates a strain on the relationship with other people (particularly a best friend), making it seem warlike.
John Knowles illustrates that the relationship between Gene Forester (hereafter referred to as Gene) and Phineas (no last name given and hereafter as Finny) is a microcosm of the outer world in his novel, A Separate Peace. Gene’s resentment of Finny caused their relationship to become a miniature war because their constant battling results in casualties as does war. Gene’s resentment for Finny causes him to jounce the limb of the tree; consequently, Finny, a young man with proclivity of athletics, falls from the tree and shattered his leg in many places and hence, Finny is the major casualty of their war.
The affection that Gene and Finny have for each other is symbolic to that of a soldier and his wounded Ally during combat. In this case, the soldier is Gene and the wounded ally is Finny. Gene’s confusion of life makes him do many things, which alters his seemly utopian relationship with Finny and falls into decadence. This is symbolic of war because at times, soldiers do not know who the enemy is; and if at all, there is an enemy. Gene’s confusion, ultimately, leads him to aid in the cumulating events that end in the death of Finny. Consequently, the relationship between Gene and Finny is a microcosm of the outer world because Gene feels resentment for Finny; Gene and Finny had greatly affection for each other and Gene undergoes much confusion in life, all of which has parallels with war. Thus, the inability of people to resolve their conflicts results, not only in their suffering, but of others as well.
First of all, Gene’s resentment of Finny caused their relationship to become a miniature war because their battling results in casualties as does war. Gene’s resentment for Finny, a young man with a inclination for athletics and with impeccable balance, causes him to jounce the limb of the tree; consequently, Finny fell from the tree and shattered his leg in many places and this was the major casualty. Another, major casualty is Gene because with the death of his best friend, Finny, he felt lost. Their resentment of each is symbolic of war because in war you resent your enemy for being better then you or just different then you. At the Head Master’s tea, Finny got in trouble for wearing a bright pink shirt and using the Devon Academy tie as a belt. This action at Devon normally results in severe consequences, but Finny, as usual, with his ability to dissuade people goes without consequence for his action, saying that it was a tribute to the school.
Gene was enraged that Finny was able to get away with this act and said, “he [Finny] had gotten away with everything. I [Gene] felt a sudden stab of disappointment.” (21). This quotation verifies that Gene resents Finny because Finny possessed the ability to talk his way out of anything. In addition, Gene wanted Finny to be punished for his disobedience; this proves his resentment because Gene knew that he could not get away with such an act, so he resents Finny because he can. After Gene witnessed Finny break the school swimming record and receive a B in trigonometry, he said to himself, “you [Gene] did hate him [Finny] for breaking that school swimming record…He hated you for getting in A in every course but one last term. You would have had an A in that one except for him. Except for him.” (45).
This quotation further illustrates the resentment that Gene and Finny have for each other because Gene resents Finny for being better than him at sports and Finny resents Gene because Gene is better than him academically. Furthermore, hating each other for their achievements in life, proves that they are resentful because they should have been proud of each other’s achievements, but instead they chose to be resentful of the fact that one was better than the other in certain aspects of life. Clearly, Gene’s resentment of Finny causes their relationship to become a miniature representation of World War II because their battling resulted in casualties, Gene and Finny. Gene resents Finny for getting away with an act that he would surely have been punished for. In addition, they resented each other for being better then the other in certain aspects of life, shows that there was resent in their relationship.
Secondly, the affection that Gene and Finny have for each other is symbolic to that of a soldier and a wounded ally during combat. In this case, the soldier was Gene and the wounded ally is Finny. After Finny’s fall from the tree, Gene takes care of him, as if he were his son. Before the fall, Finny decides to visit the beach and forces Gene to come with him, instead of going to school. The two boys (Finny and Gene) spend the day at the beach and as the days comes to its cessation, Finny says to Gene, “I hope you’re having a pretty good time here. I know I kind of dragged you away at the point of a gun, but after all you can’t come to the shore with just anybody and you can’t come alone, and at this teen age period in life the proper person is your best pal…which is what you are.” (40). This quotation validates their affection for each other because Finny states that he dragged Gene “away at the point of the gun” and by doing this he shows his great affection towards Gene because Finny realized that Gene had no desire go, but Gene went anyway because he knew that Finny had a wistful desire to go to the beach and Finny thanked him for this.
By Finny stating that, “the proper person is your best pal,” he proved that he loves Gene to the extent that he is his best pal. A while later, Finny dies because of a second leg break, where bone marrow escaped from his leg bone, then into his blood stream and then stopped his heart. Gene attends Finny’s funeral and Gene narrated, “I did not cry then or ever about Finny. I did not cry even when I stood watching him being lowered into his family’s strait-laced burial ground outside of Boston. I could not escape a feeling that his was my own funeral, and you do not cry in that case.” (186).
This quotation proves Gene’s affection for Finny he did not cry at Finny’s funeral because there are no more tears to shed; Gene too has suffered to death. His alter ego, best friend and constant source of energy has been taken away and replaced by nothing. Furthermore, Gene states, “I could not escape a feeling that his was my own funeral, and you do not cry in that case,” proves that he had great affection for Finny because with the death of his best pal, a part of him dies, due to their close and affectionate relationship. In conclusion, the affection that Gene and Finny have for each other is symbolic to that of a soldier and a wounded ally during combat because Finny thought greatly of Gene for going to the beach and Gene feeling that a part of him dies with the death of his best pal, Finny.
Finally, Gene’s and Finny’s confusion of life, make them do many things which negatively alter their seemingly utopian relationship with each other causing it to fall into decadence. This is symbolic of war because, at times, soldiers do not know who the enemy is, if there some force to be afraid and what the consequences of their actions will mean. Gene’s confusion, ultimately, makes him to be the principle cause, for the accumulating events, resulting in the death Finny. After the first incident, where Finny falls from the tree there is an investigation, head by Brinker Hadley, a pompous young man who enjoys giving orders. During the interrogation, Finny, no longer able to bare the allegations placed against his friend, Gene, that claim he jounces the limb, which causes him to fall and break his leg, he then runs out of the interrogation. The impairment that Finny sustains from the fall (a shattered leg) results, in the lose of his agility.
Consequently, he then falls down the stairs and breaks his leg for a second time. Gene, later that night, rushes to the Informatory to see how his friend is doing. The next day Finny asks Gene why he came the night before and Gene replied, “‘I thought I belonged here.’” (181). This quotation proves that Gene is confused because he does not know where he belongs and if Finny was indeed, still his friend. Furthermore, Gene is confused due to his uncertainties of life and he assumes that Finny needed him, without actually knowing that someone he is close too, may or may not need him. After the death of Finny, Gene reflects, “….I was on active duty all my time at school; I killed my enemy there… All of them [including Gene], all expect Phineas, constructed at infinite cost to themselves these Maginot Lines against this enemy they saw across the frontier, this enemy who never attacked that way-if he ever attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy.” (196).
This quotation proves the Gene is confused because he did not know who the enemy is and his confusion causes the hostilities towards Finny that is one of the many cumulative events, in the death of Finny, which ontically was not the enemy, but his best pal. Furthermore, if Gene is not confused, then he would have knew who the enemy is and if this enemy really exist, then he would not have shaken the limb of tree, which is the first of many events, which leads to the death of Finny, his best pal. In conclusion, Gene’s confusion of life, made him do many things which alters his ideal relationship with Finny causing it to fall into decadence and this is symbolic of war because at times it is unclear as to whether or not there is an enemy and what are the consequences of individuals actions and words. In addition, Gene did not know where he and his allegiance belongs and if, in fact, Finny is the enemy or even if there is an enemy.
Because the relationship between Gene and Finny is a microcosm of the outer world, Gene feels resentment for Finny; Gene and Finny have greatly affection for each other and they both undergo much confusion in life. Thus, the inability of people to resolve their internal wars and the misunderstandings that result, not only in their suffering, but of others as well. Gene’s resentment of Finny causes their relationship to become a miniature war because their battling results in casualties, as does war. The affection that Gene and Finny had for each other is symbolic to that of a soldier and a wounded ally during combat.
Gene’s confusion makes him do many things, which negatively alters his relationship with Finny and this is symbolic of war because at times you do not know who the enemy is and if their interpretation of this enemy is reasonable or justified. Thus, the characters, Gene and Finny, in John Knowles’s novel, A Separate Peace, illustrates that their (Finny and Gene) relationship is a miniature representation of a world at war. The misconception of war that youths’ have is parallel to the fear of the enemy, which attacks externally and the suffering that comes with the internal wars caused by their internal enemy (themselves). “Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die. And it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow, and the triumphs that are the aftermath of war.” (Herbert Clark Hoover).
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. New York: The Macmillan Company,
Hoover, Herbert C. “Aftermath.” The Encyclopedia of Quotations. Vol.1 Ed. M. Arebelli.
Ohio: Steinway Publishing Company, 1972. 2 vols.
A separate peace movie
A Separate Peace is one of John Knowles’ most acclaimed works and is based on Knowles’ stay at Phillip Exeter Academy in the early-to-mid 1940’s. It is set in a New England boarding school for boys known as Devon, and begins in 1958 but quickly flashes back to the years 1942 and 1943. In these years at the peak of World War II we follow through the eyes and mind of first-person narrator and protagonist Gene Forrester, as he copes internally with jealousy and hate, and externally with the oncoming draft.
As is the fate of many great novels it quickly hit the big screen, and in 1972 a film version of A Separate Peace made its first debut, directed by Larry Peerce, and starring Parker Stevensen as ‘Gene’ and John Heyl as ‘Finny’. Though the movie conveyed the theme – Gene a misled and surreptitiously violent student at Devon makes peace with himself and the world – many symbolic elements, important aspects, and minor details are lost in the transition from novel to film.
The first noted difference between the movie and book is that an the novel, before the flashback while Gene is revisiting Devon he remarks that he wants to visit two places: “I reached a marble foyer, and stopped at the foot of a long white marble flight of stairs.” And: “There were several trees bleakly reaching into the fog. Any one of them might be the one I was looking for.” Strangely in the movie Gene only visits the tree, we can infer that the stair scene is omitted because it might give away the ending too soon. For instance seeing a tree doesn’t necessarily hint at the further content, while seeing stairs and a tree may result in someone making the connection of falling down which, would ultimately give away the story’s climax and ending. This is a fairly important scene and gets the reader interested through foreshadowing early on in the story but was left out of the film.
As both the novel and movie progress many minor variations are noted, an example of such a trivial difference between the novel and film is that in the movie, Brinker is part of the summer session. This is most likely done to introduce major characters early on, and make it easier for viewers to keep track of key people and less confusing than having them introduced halfway through the movie. Then as the movie continues series of notably different events take place between Finny’s triumph over A. Hopkins Parker and Finny and Gene’s return from their escapade to the Beach. Three of the most prominent changes in this segment are that Parkers swim record is replaced with a pole-vaulting record; Gene doesn’t need to be persuaded nearly as much to go to the beach, and much more detail is put into the beach/boardwalk scene in the movie than the book. A. Hopkins Parkers’ record is changed from swimming to pole-vaulting, which is most likely changed to save time and increase the action and interest level of the scene; pole-vaulting is much more exciting and captivating for the audience than swimming.
The viewers can also see that the record has been beaten instead of having to take Gene’s word from a stopwatch. Next in the movie Gene instantly agrees to accompany Finny to the beach, while in the novel Gene inwardly contemplates the consequences before answering:”The beach was hours away by bicycle, forbidden, completely out of all bounds. Going there risked expulsion, destroyed the studying I was doing for an important test the next morning, blasted the reasonable amount of order I wanted to keep in my life, and it also involved the kind of long labored bicycle ride I hated.
‘All right,’ I said.”This gives us a sense of how persuasive a person Finny is; Gene gives excuse upon excuse and yet ends up giving in to Finny, in the movie Finny’s personality cannot be displayed nearly as prominently because of the fact that Gene doesn’t narrate during in the film, and therefore it is nearly impossible to include the amount of detail in the film as the book. Finally the beach scene unlike most of the movie has a lot of seemingly unneeded time put into it, and is perhaps the only scene that has more detail than its counterpart in the novel. The amount of time spent on this scene when compared to the amount of information left out of the movie is significant, and was perhaps made this way to make up for symbolism left out in the film.
The lack of symbolism in most of the movie results in a tremendous loss of sensory details for the viewer and can result in a lesser understanding of the story. For example in chapter six Knowles entrances us in a symbolic representation of two rivers: the Devon and the Naguamsett. The Devon clean and pure directly relates to the boys life at school – secluded, peaceful, tranquil – while the harsh Naguamsett is ruthless and unsympathetic “It was ugly, saline, fringed with marsh mud and seaweed.” These represent the dangers of life outside of Devon and the draft which is seen to the boys as “governed by unimaginable factors like the Gulf Stream, the Polar Ice Cap, and the Moon.
This depth and complexity cannot be shown embodied in the movie because of the lack of first person narration. Yet another lack of significant imagery between movie and book is when Gene visits Leper after leaving the army, and is told of the madness that overcame him, Knowles creates a scene that directly reflects Leper’s insanity:”The crust beneath us continued to crack and as we reached the border of the field the frigid trees also were cracking with the cold. The two sharp groups of noises sounded to my ears like rifles being fired in the distance.”This is a much more visual showing then the movie in which Leper is pushed down, and rolls into a fetal position.
In conclusion the movie is a good idea but is poorly executed, and unfortunately lacks the novel’s symbolism, many key features, and minor but helpful details. The movie inadequately portrays of the novel and would be difficult to interpret without first reading the book. That said it is not especially bad if one has read the novel prior to viewing the movie and they compliment each other well.
A Separate Peace. Dir. Larry Peerce. Perf. Parker Stevenson and John Heyl. VHS. Paramount Pictures, 1972.
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. Secker and Warburg, 1959
Everything has to evolve or else it perishes
Rejection, and acceptance, these words are linked with innocence, and the loss of said innocence. In order for one to grow one needs to accept the fact and make necessary changes. The people who deny the fact do not experience the “fall from innocence” and may be blind to the things going on around them. If the innocent picks to accept the fact the characters “progresses” and falls from innocence. If a character chooses to reject the reality it will take a toll on the character mentally, or physically.
In A Different Peace, John Knowles uses the archetype of the Fall from Innocence in order to illustrate Leper’s viewpoint, “Whatever needs to develop or else it dies.” He shows this theme through the characters of Leper, Finny, and Gene. Gene is a character in the book who loses his innocence. Gene is wise young guy participating in participating in Devon school. He is friend’s with Finny. Gene is constantly contending with Finny, many of the time Finny does not understand this.
Finny is oblivious to much of the important things walking around him and is always delighted. Finny’s attitude and the method he brings himself annoy Gene.
Finny is “perfect” and absolutely nothing ever appears to fail in Finny’s life. Gene becomes jealous of Finny and starts to frown at Finny for attempting to sabotage his academics. These sensations of jealousy ultimately trigger Gene to push Finny off the tree. Gene tries to maintain his innocence by trying to convince himself that he was not accountable for the fall and that it must have mysteriously taken place. The fall shattered Finny’s legs. Deep down Gene knew that he was accountable for Finny’s fall. This experience was traumatizing for Gene. Gene would have to handle the fact that HE was accountable for Finny not being able to do anything he enjoyed.
Gene was responsible for Finny not being able to be in the Olympics, not being able to enlist, and causing Finny to eventually lose his innocence. Gene was directly responsible for his best friend’s problems and he couldn’t ignore it. Gene chose not to enlist to stay with Finny, he chose to train for the Olympics for Finny, he probably would have done more if he had to. Gene did these to protect his innocence, and make himself feel better. He did not want to believe he was responsible and was trying to make up for the fall by doing these. After the fallt things don’t get better for Gene.
It isn’t until Leper’s testimony that he must accept what he has done. When Leper confirms that it was not an accident and that Gene was responsible for breaking his best friend’s legs Gene can no longer pretend that everything is fine. Everyone including Finny knew that Gene was responsible. Gene could no longer act like he did not do it. Gene had to cope with his actions and their consequences. Accepting his actions are what lead to Gene losing his innocence. Finny is an example of the Innocent archetype, who “perishes” when he denies the truth.
Finny is a prime example of the innocent, he seeks safety, he is naive and doesn’t understand or want to understand the evils of the world. Finny’s loss comes at the hands of his best friend Gene. Finny’s fall begins when he and Gene decide to jump off the tree and Finny falls off the tree. Finny is an exceptional athlete and has jumped off the tree many times. In his mind nothing like this could ever happen, he’s done things like this many times before, and has done them well. Falling off the tree could have never been his fault and he knew that. That is why he looked at Gene with “extreme interest” as he fell.
Somewhere in his mind he felt that Gene could have been responsible for this but he didn’t want to believe this and chose not to. He could not believe that his best friend could have pushed him off the tree which led could have led to things for more severe than broken legs. When Gene tells Finny that he was responsible for his fall Finny continues to deny this and even apologizes for thinking Gene could have been responsible. Later on in the book when Brinker tries to find the truth about the fall and Finny has no choice but to accept the truth he continues to deny it.
Rather than hearing all of the truth, that Gene was responsible for his fall, which would destroy his world he decides to leave the presence of everyone else. Finny’s suspicions were right but he, the innocent boy, can’t accept that anybody would be cruel enough to push him off the tree. As he takes the stairs to leave, he slips and falls. This fall would later be the cause of his death. Finny refuses to grow up, and accept the events taking place in his life, regardless of the evidence that shows his perfect world has many imperfections. His clouded judgement and refusal to accept the truth and evolve eventually leads to his death.
Leper’s loss is portrayed through his insanity. Leper was once a sane, quiet boy who was interested in skiing, and went to school with Gene, and Finny. One day Leper found out that the army had skiing patrol and his passion for skiing lead to him enlisting in the army. Leper’s decision to enlist in the army was not influenced by the possible consequences and responsibilities of the war but by his passion to ski. Leper was not aware of the reality of the war, and what was going to happen once he enlisted. His innocence led him to believe that nothing bad could come from the war and he would only be skiing.
Once he faced the reality of the war Leper could not handle it. The traumatic experiences from the war led to his insanity and him leaving the war. Leper was a timid, innocent boy who had not been exposed to the horrors of the real world and the war. Once he enlisted he had to face a world that he could not handle, his innocence was lost. In A Separate Peace three boys, Finny, Gene, and Leper all experience a “Fall from Innocence. ” The three characters have to deal with circumstances they have never dealt with before. Not prepared to handle these events they experience a “Fall from Innocence. ”
Carl Jung: Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst
A Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, who founded analytical psychology and proposed that humans are born with 4 inherited archetypes from the collective unconscious; the Self, the Persona, the Shadow and the Soul Image. These four archetypes are present within literature, through the majority of the characters. Using Jungian analysis to examine John Knowles A Separate Peace reveals that Gene is in denial of his shadow, his friend Phineas has found balance with his anima and persona, and Leper is dominated by his anima.
Gene is in denial of his shadow after jouncing Finny off of the tree. To Jung, the shadow represents the unconscious aspect of personality which the ego decides to ignore. Similar to most adolescents, Gene struggles through the stages of consciousness and ultimately gains the freedom to control his own life as his ego moves out of his unconscious and he becomes an adult. He justifies causing Finny’s fall by saying, ‘It was just some ignorance inside me, some crazy thing inside me, something bling?'(Knowles 183).
Gene starts to deny his shadow as he grows closer to his persona. Later in the novel, Gene takes a trip to Vermont to visit Leper, a fellow Devon student that enlisted in the war. Leper was affected by the war and wasn’t able to return to Devon.
As Leper describes his tales, Gene has an outburst, yelling,’Do you think I want to hear every gory detail! Shut up! I don’t care??¦. This has nothing to do with me. Nothing at all!’… I turned around and began a clumsy run across the field’ (Knowles 156). Gene’s shadow causes him to yell at Leper in an aggressive manner, causing Leper to be confused. Leper’s story cause Gene to feel a fear he didn’t know he had. Gene realizes that the true savage nature of man is within everyone, including himself. He must face his shadow and understand that he did in fact jounce Finny off the limb.
Finny, Gene’s ‘best friend’ is outgoing, amazing at sports, and is one of the most popular boys at Devon, Finny, unlike other boys, has found a balance between his anima and persona. The anima represents femininity; an inherent ability to nurture and care, whereas persona a mask, or the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others. One day Finny decides to wear a pink shirt, pink is the color associated with females. Other boys start making fun of him and saying, ‘It makes you look like a fairy!’Does it?’ He used this preoccupied tone when he was thinking of something more interesting that what you had said’ (Knowles 24). When Finny wears the pink shirt and tie as a belt it proves how Finny is in acceptance of his anima and he is unbothered by what other people are saying. On the other hand, Gene and Finny share a rivalry that neither of them really know about, Finny is dominated by his athletic persona and often distracts Gene from his studies, causing Gene to lash out at Finny, yelling ‘Studying!’ I snarled. ‘Studying! You know, books. Work. Examinations.’…Okay, we go. We watch little lily-liver Lepellier not jump from the tree, and I ruin my grade.’ (Knowles 26).
This further demonstrates how Finny is in balance on his persona and anima, by leaving Gene alone do his studies he is finding a midpoint between person and anima to show Gene he cares about him. Finny is dominated by his athletic persona, he is the only character who’s not beaten by himself, but a victim of everyone else’s personal defeat. Leper is dominated by his anima, because he is seen as feminine to both Gene and Finny. Leper is a peaceful, quiet, contemplative boy. He is also the first of all the boys to join the war. He becomes the hero all the boys wanted to be, Leper becomes a reflection of all the boys’ dreams of their own future selves in the army., ‘…We were all at our funniest about Leper, and we all secretly hoped that Leper, that incompetent, was as heroic as we said’ (54). They all wanted to be like Leper even if they didn’t show it. Coming back from the war Leper was accepted by the darkness of a man’s heart, his innocence was taken out of him, and when he came back he was not nearly as feminine as before.
When Gene visits Leper he found that he was hallucinating about men’s heads on women’s bodies and arms of chairs turning into human limbs, Leper was putting horrific images into Gene’s head. Gene trying to straighten out his friend says ‘Don’t tell me who’s got me and who hasn’t got me. Who do you think you’re talking to? Stick to your snails, Lepellier’ (136). When Leper returns from the war he has drastically changed, he isn’t the same anima driven boy he used to be, he’s now a mask of his old self. Leper’s anima starts to fade out when he joins the army and his persona starts to take over. A Separate Peace displays a range of different psychoanalytic behavior through three main characters, Gene, the protagonist of the novel, is in denial of his shadow, his friend Phineas who has found balance with his anima and persona, and Leper who is dominated by is anima. These three archetypes have a big effect on the events that happen to and mental states of characters throughout A Separate Peace as well as many other novels.
A Separate Peace
A Separate Peace tells the story of a sixteen-year-old boy at boarding school in New Hampshire during World War II, and the mixed feelings of admiration and jealousy he harbors for his best friend and roommate. Things get messy pretty fast, as you might expect from a bunch of ill-supervised adolescents. John Knowles’ novel, often compared to Catcher In The Rye, he raises a question about competition amongst teens.
Competition is supposed to be healthy, but Knowles questions when do you draw a line between a fruitless rivalry and wanting to win at all costs.
Knowles uses themes of friendship, identity and youth to establish quite clearly that knocking your best friend out of a tree is on the wrong side of that line. A Separate Peace focuses on the friendship between two sixteen-year-old boys, and it’s complicated. Friendship is a combination of admiration, respect, jealousy, and resentment.
For all the camaraderie between them, these boys are still driven by good old healthy competition, which at times can end up being, well, less than healthy.
Friendship blurs identity, as one boy begins to assimilate the life of the other. Narrator Gene has an inner struggle with himself trying to decide if he pushed best firend Finn off a tree, shattering his leg and dreams, on purpose or not. In the book he says “It struck me then that I was injuring him again. It occurred to me that this could be an even deeper injury than what I had done before.
I would have to back out of it, I would have to disown it. ” There are two ways to interpret this passage. Either this is one of Gene’s greatest moments of honesty or it’s yet another moment of justification. Knowles leaves it to the reader to decide if Gene would rather live with his shame than hurt Finny by revealing the truth, or if he is pretending he doesn’t want to hurt Finny in order to recant the truth and save himself from persecution. In A Separate Peace John Knowles explores the difficulties with understanding ones own identity during adolescence.
Identity is complicated enough as the narrator enters adulthood in a time of war, but a difficult friendship with Finny leads to a further confusion of identity. Attempting to alter identity serves a number of purposes in the book, from escaping guilt to living through others to dealing with insanity. Gene begins abandoning his identity and assimilating that of Finny because of the would be the guilt he feels for ending his Olympic dreams. Finny interested in turning Gene into a version of himself for the very same reason.
Furing Finny’s funeral Gene says ” I did not cry then or ever about Finny… I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral, and you do not cry in that case. ” If Gene did in some way become a part of Finny, then part of Finny lives on in Gene. Gene alludes to this when he says that he still lives his life in Finny’s created “atmosphere. ” In the book youth exists in its own environment. Knowles physically, mentally, and emotionally isolates it from the rest of the world.
In doing so growing up becomes the transition from the sheltered environment to the harsh realities of things like war, hatred, and fear. In the book while taking a walk Gene does a little introspection stating” levels of reality I had never suspected before, a kind of thronging and epic grandeur which my superficial eyes and cluttered mind had been blind to before. They unrolled away impervious to me as though I were a roaming ghost. ” Essentially Gene has moved into the adult world. In doing so he is leaving his youth behind.
That sense of emergence is reflected as he considers his old self, his younthful self, dead. Nearly all the major characters in the book attempt to alter identity but these attempts ultimately fail and then the characters are forced to deal with themselves, actions, and personal identities. Knowles cleverly uses the title of the book in order to explain the overall “It wasn’t the cider which made me surpass myself, it was this liberation we had torn from the gray encroachments of 1943, the escape we had concocted, this afternoon of momentary, illusory, special and separate peace. These lines offer meaning, and this one with a less militaristic meaning.
Essentially in the book Knowles has created a peace that is separate from the rest of the world, isolated somehow, protected. Like the youth at Devon school? The rest of the world is at war, but Gene and the other boys at Devon have achieved a peace outside of that war, a peace that is separate from it.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
The title of my book is A Separate Peace by John Knowles. The bottom line of this story is that the two main characters Gene, the shy, closed off smart one, and Phineas, the rebellious, attractive, and athletic one, are in an all-boys school in New England during the early stages of World War II. Despite their differences, the two friends are basically inseparable until their innocence and peace are disrupted with talks of warfare, the wondering of “Who am I really?” and searching for one’s identity, and last but not least, envy.
This book entails how much friendship can fall apart over the span of one summer and more, and how far one’s mind can truly stray away from reality, and give into impulse thoughts. My reaction to the story was that I was very interested in the plot line and greatly entranced with the overloading detail that came with the writing throughout the story.
The story is set in Devon School in New England in the years 1942-1943, but this is merely a flashback from the main character’s point of view, as the story starts off in 1958 at the same location. The academy he attends is an all boys school which is quite large as there are many unused buildings and the students and staff live on campus. Although in 1958 the school looks much nicer and polished with a coat of varnish, the main character realizes how much more dreary it looked in 1942-1943, as there was the war going on and there was no time for maids or other clean-up staff. “There was nothing to distract me as I made my way across a wide yard,called the Far Common, and up to a building as red brick and balanced as other major buildings, but with a large cupola and a bell an a clock and Latin over the doorway- the First Academy Building” (Knowles, 11).
“Phineas stopped talking for once, so that now I could hear cricket noises and bird cries of dusk, a gymnasium truck gunning along an empty athletic road a quarter mile away, a burst of faint, isolated laughter carried to us from the back door of the gym, and then overall, cool and matriarchal, the six o’clock bell from the Academy Building cupola, the calmest, most carrying bell toll in the world, civilized, calm, invincible, and final” (Knowles, 18). These quotes are from the protagonist’s point of view and although it seems like he thoroughly enjoys his happy and lively school, as the story goes on he realizes how sad and dreary it really is and the mildew smelling atmosphere it creates.
The setting does affect the plot because while Gene and Phineas are at school, they have limited things they can do despite the fact that they can both be very sneaky and know their ways around school rules. As they both spend all of their time at the school they tend to wander around and they seek out the empty parts of their campus. When they escape the safe and calm aura of their school the outside world helps to really wake them up and realize that there is much more beyond their school and everything may not actually be ok.
For most of the story, the setting does not change besides when Phineas drags Gene out one day off campus to go the beach to be free and when Gene and another one of his acquaintances Leper Lepellier do community work by shoveling snow of the railroads. I think the change might be important because year round they are stuck at the same place with very little things they can go and do and see, but when they are in the more open world they can really see how much possible freedom they could hold. It also lets them see what is actually out there and what’s going on, as information that they receive inside the school may or may not be true.
The protagonist in this story is named Gene Forrester who is sixteen years old at the time this story. Although the book does not give a direct description of what he looks like, a couple of things that have been mentioned are that he is fairly handsome and that he is 5’8 and weighs 140 pounds. One personality trait that Gene holds is that he is lost and envious.
I believe he is lost because he has strayed away from who he really is, and who he was. Gene had no idea what he would do without Phineas and he has no sense of identity. He depends on Phineas a lot and finds a little too much comfort in being with him. He is also envious because it is shown throughout the book that Gene is obviously jealous of Phineas and wants to be him so badly that it becomes almost obsessive. He makes up things in his head that Phineas also resents him and so that justifies his hatred. “I was Phineas, Phineas to the life,”… “I had no idea why this gave me such intense relief, but it seemed, standing there in Finny’s triumphant shirt, that I would never stumble through the confusions of my own character again,” (Knowles, 62). “I couldn’t help envying him that a little, which was perfectly normal. There was no harm in envying even your best friend just a little,” (Knowles, 25).
This quote shows how Gene felt when he was in Phineas’ clothes while he was gone and the enjoyment he got from feeling like he was Phineas in his true form. This quote is a prime example of him being lost, as he mentioned questioning himself at the end of the quote, and how he takes his envy as far as to want to physically be that person and blur his true self. The second quote is him trying to brush off his envy as something that isn’t too serious, but it goes to show that his envy eventually turns into hate.
The next characteristic I have found Gene to have is that he is very insecure and unconfident. His insecurity mostly comes from looking at his best friend and comparing himself in terms of body build and his personality in general. Gene isn’t very strong in the athletics division, while Phineas is. Gene also never does anything without Phineas and often complies to everything he does in fear of being judged and mocked by him. Gene isn’t very strong in the athletics division, while Phineas is. Gene also says that he won’t try out for the sports Phineas tells him to, as he thinks he can’t do them and believes he will never be as good as him. I also think that he is so self-conscious that he lets Phineas take advantage of him, lets him talk him into doing stupid and wild things. “Why did I let Finny talk me into stupid things like this? Was he getting some kind of hold over me?,” (Knowles, 17).
“Every time, when I got myself into position to jump, I felt a flash of disbelief that I was doing anything so perilous. But I always jumped. Otherwise I would have lost face with Phineas, and that would have been unthinkable,” (Knowles, 34).
These quotes explain and support my idea of Gene being insecure because in the first quote, even though he knows what he is about to do is completely crazy and insane, he still does it because Phineas told him to do it, and the thought of Phineas controlling him still doesn’t stop him from doing it. In the second quote, it’s just about the same idea as the first one, but with more traces of his insecurity and competitive spirit that only seems to rise when Phineas is involved. He thinks that being less than him or having anyone think that he was below Phineas was completely out of question and he wouldn’t allow it, as he wouldn’t want to be seen as cowardly or that he was a buzzkill.
The last attribute that Gene has is that he is a coward. Not specifically in the way of him being scared to jump off the tree or to do anything risky, but the fact that he has never said no to Phineas when he tells him to do those things and has never once gone too far in his questioning. Gene doesn’t stand up for himself or protest because if he loses Phineas, he loses everything. He’s scared of being a nobody and of not having Phineas by his side to protect him and leech off of. He constantly needs him there and will never do anything that goes against him in fear of Phineas leaving, which means Gene no longer as his peace of feeling like he is one with him. “I went along; I never missed a meeting.
At that time it would have never occurred to me to say, “I don’t feel like it tonight,” which was the plain truth every night,” (Knowles, 34). “Going there risked expulsion, destroyed the studying that I was going to do for an important test the next morning, blasted the reasonable amount of order I wanted to maintain in my life, and it also involved the kind of long, labored bicycle ride I hated. “All right,” I said,” (Knowles, 46). These two quotes represent how even if he thought the consequences of his actions and even his own feelings, he was always too weak to speak up, all to maintain his out of control and toxic friendship. Phineas has stated before that he would do anything for Gene, so naturally, Gene decided that he would do the same for him, but it has gotten to the point of where it is unhealthy. He feels too small to tell Phineas his real thoughts, all because if he does, that might be the breaking point in their relationship. Phineas is his idol, and Gene is just a weak and cowardly follower.
In the book, there are two things that could be considered the antagonist. One of them is the war that is going on, which is one of the main reasons that Gene and Phineas’ friendship is falling apart and how traces of insanity and dissociation start to creep in. I believe that the main and true, but hidden, the antagonist is Phineas or Finny. He is described to be 5’8 and 150 pounds, but he still has an even body build. He is known for being handsome, and Gene gives details of him having sharp features and nice hair. One trait that Phineas holds is that he is, along with Gene, a coward, but in a more selfish and scheming kind of way.
Phineas is also a coward because even though he proposes all the risky and dangerous things he and Gene do, Phineas never does anything without Gene. He only does it if he knows that Gene will join him, and Gene does whatever Phineas wants him to do. I also believe he is a coward because of the manipulative tendencies he has with Gene, calling him scared, and the possibility of him knowing that Gene kisses the ground that he walks on and basically worships him. He takes advantage of all of this and soaks in the compliments and motivation that Gene gives him, except it goes straight to his ego. ““Oh yes I did. I’m good for you that way. You have a tendency to back away from things otherwise.””(Knowles, 18). “
“Let’s go jump in the river,” he said under his breath as we went out of the sun porch. He forced compliance by leaning against me as we walked along, changing my direction; like a police car squeezing me to the side of the road, directed me unwillingly toward the gym and the river,” (Knowles, 29). These quotes show how Phineas is indeed manipulative and that is what makes him the true coward and villain. He needs to trick and force others into his wrongdoings and activities just to satisfy his ego and hide his true fear of not being the greatest and most loved. Phineas affects the main character and the story because the whole reason anything ever happened, which was him getting pushed out of the tree, were his actions towards Gene and how he fueled his obsession with Phineas and never once considered thinking of how Gene felt. Once Phineas becomes crippled, they both seem to leech off of each other even more than before. Although Phineas seems to provoke this kind of behavior and shows no sign of acknowledgment or stopping himself.
The theme of this book is that the menacing change from Gene and Phineas’ relationship being based on codependency into losing one’s identity and becoming someone else for self-enjoyment. Gene and Phineas’ friendship began with envy and hatred from Gene towards Phineas not because he wanted to be better than him, but because he wanted to be him. “I thought the issue was settled until at the end he said, “Listen pal, if I can’t play sports, you’re going to play them for me,” and I lost part of myself to him then, and a soaring sense of freedom revealed that this must have been my purpose from the first; to become a part of Phineas,” (Knowles, 85). According to the text on page 62, Gene is seen alone in his dorm with Phineas’ clothes on, and he enjoys feeling like he is him. Looking at himself in the mirror gives him a sense of pride and confidence, and also a discovery and identity.
These two pieces of evidence show much Gene depends on Phineas, and that he wants to change who he is so much that he wants to be another person. This theme has significance in my life because many people try to change who they really are, and try to become someone they’re not. Like some others, even after Phineas died, Gene didn’t let the aspect of longing to be him and when Phineas dies, he feels as though it was himself that passed. Gene feels as though he cannot think of existing without Phineas by his side. In everyday life, many people try to be someone they are not and while others are more subtle with it, others take it as far as physically morphing themselves and telling themselves and others that they are that person.
One important symbol in this book is when Phineas falls out of the tree and breaks his leg. It is the highest point of the story and one where Gene realizes how far he took his resentment towards Phineas, and the damage of what he had impulsively done. “Holding firmly to the trunk, I took a step toward him, and then my knees bent and I jounced the limb. Finny, his balance gone, swung his head around to look at me for an instant with extreme interest, and then he tumbled sideways, broke through the little branches below and hit the bank with a sickening, unnatural thud,” (Knowles, 60). This quote shows how at that moment, Gene saw Phineas at his weakest and not in his usual perfect state. This symbol added meaning to the story because it was the last bit of fun they had that summer, but right after the accident, it turns into a dark and sad winter filled with regret, guilt, and reliance.
This event marked where the story would go downhill from, and how things would only continue to get worse as they went on. The second important symbol in this story is Phineas’ death. When he fell down the stairs, that was a shock to everyone as he had just gotten better from a previously broken leg. During the surgery on his leg, the doctor informs Gene that Phineas had died during the procedure, as bone marrow had made its way into his bloodstream and stopped his heart completely.
“During the time I was with him, Phineas created an atmosphere in which I now continued to live, a way of sizing up the world with erratic and entirely personal reservations, letting its rocklike facts sift through and be accepted only a little at a time, only as much as he could assimilate without a sense of chaos and loss,” (Knowles, 202). This quote is of Gene talking about after Phineas was gone, and even though his physical being was not present, Gene still felt like he held a part of him in himself like he still lived his life. This symbol added meaning the story because when Phineas died, Gene let himself go in some form. Part of him was lost, and there was no way to get it back. He even decided that he was going to enlist in the war, which would’ve sounded crazy if Phineas had heard him say that. He realized how far he took this whole creating an enemy out of Phineas, even if all of it might’ve been in his head. The loss makes him see what he had really done, and the regret and remorse that will forever stay with him, for one mistake he made as a dumb, insecure and envious sixteen year old.
The efficacy of the writing was both very beautiful and disturbing in a way.
The author will write about something that is seemingly innocent, and then later in the story, its true meaning will be revealed in an unexpected way. The way his words are phrased may be covered, but once you look into it it has a much deeper meaning and you realize that it connects to something else and shows the truth behind it. “All of them, all except Phineas, constructed at infinite cost to themselves these Maginot Lines against this enemy they thought they saw across the frontier, this enemy who never attacked that way- if he ever attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy,” (Knowles, 204).
The way the author wrote this book was truly mesmerizing; with the odd way he would describe things, the language he used, and the slight symbolism he put behind so many sentences is what made me truly invest in this book. “Only Phineas was never afraid, only Phineas never hated anyone. Other people experienced this fearful shock somewhere, this sighting of the enemy, and so began an obsessive labor of defense, began to parry the menace they saw facing them by developing a particular frame of mind….,” (Knowles, 204). I didn’t find many weaknesses in the authors writing, besides the confusing and odd things he wrote, which implied one thing or another, but never confirmed any of it.
I don’t see this as much of a weakness, as it can be a good discussion in the classroom or anywhere else to see what different people think about what the author said, while never knowing if it’s true or not as the author never confirmed anything. This story has changed my way of thinking with how deep it goes into the innocence of two teenage boys, and how big but seemingly small factor can flip everything upside down. I thought that this book was pretty good, and would recommend it to others, although the end of the book was a big shock and a bit of a letdown, as I was not expecting the author to kill off Phineas. I would still show it to others, as the way it ended fueled my wonder of wanting to know more even more so than I had thought.
Gene'S Personal Identity
Like many teenagers, Gene Forrester, Finny, and their friends struggle to define their identities. Word War II hinders their teenage lives and forces them to define themselves in relation to the war. The boys in the Devon School deal with the chaos different ways; for example, one of the boys, Leper, decides to enlist even though the military contrasts sharply with his nature-loving instincts, and Finny denies the war even exists.
In each case, the boys try to define themselves against something in order to be men. Gene goes through the same identity crisis, but his crisis doesn’t revolve around the war, it revolves around his roommate, Finny. Gene’s admiration and jealousy of his friend are so great that he literally loses himself in Finny.
Gene’s personal identity is so wrapped up in Finny that in order to become independent, he has to destroy his roommate. The novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles is told from the point of view of the main character, Gene Forrester, as he reminisces back to his days in The Devon Boarding School in New England. After Gene’s roommate, Finny, shatters his leg due to an accident, Gene learns to accept himself as a separate person and he slowly becomes responsible for his own actions and decisions; at first, Gene was envious of his athletic and charming roommate, but after the tree accident, Gene started coming out of Finny’s shadow and became more confident and independent, and by the end of the story he became a very wise and understanding adult.
Prior to Finny’s leg injury, Gene always followed his roommate around and lived in his successful shadow; Gene looked up to Finny and thought of him as a super-human. Gene believed that everything that Phineas did was perfect, even an action as simple as walking seemed so perfect; as Gene followed Finny, he noticed how he walked on serenely, or rather flowed on, rolling forward with such unthinking unity of movement that walk didn’t describe it (Knowles 18). Throughout the novel, Gene’s main desire was to be more like Finny. Gene’s jealousy of Finny corrupts their friendship and later on leads Gene to push Finny out of a tree.
Some of Gene’s jealous feelings toward Finny, such as his desire for Finny’s carefree charm, are casual; while other envious feelings are more deeply rooted. The deep-seated sense of envy and rivalry that is seen in Gene prevents him from reciprocating Finny’s pure feelings of friendship. Although Gene is fascinated by everything that Finny does, his feelings soon manifest into jealousy and Finny becomes more of a rival than a friend. Gene drastically misinterprets Finny’s motivations and feelings towards him by thinking, I found a single sustaining thought. The thought was, You and Phineas are even already. You are in enmity. You are both coldly driving ahead for yourselves alone. You did hate him for breaking that school swimming record, but so what? He hated you for getting an A in every course but one last term. You would have had an A in that one except for him. Except for him (53).
Before Finny’s accident, he nonchalantly trusts Gene and has no hateful feelings towards him. However, Gene deeply resents Finny for his natural charisma and effortless ability to succeed; Gene’s insecurities and jealousy get the best of him when he decides to purposely make Finny fall from a tree, which completely changes Gene forever.
After Finny’s accident, Gene was left all alone and he had to adapt to a life without his rival, Finny. Months go by and winter begins at Devon school without Finny, but Gene and the other boys keep moving forward in their lives and they each focus on school and the war. Finny’s absence allowed Gene to find his true identity, and he even started thinking about enlisting to the war after his friend, Leper stated that to enlist. To slam the door impulsively on the past, to shed everything down to my last bit of clothing, to break the pattern of my life…The war would be deadly all right. But I was used to finding something deadly in things that attracted me (101). As Gene matures he starts to develop his own identity, and he reveals his attraction to deadly things.
At first, when Gene agreed to join the war with Leper, Gene was serious, but when Finny came back to Devon and made fun of his roommate, Gene went back to his old habits and decided to follow Finny’s lead and stopped believing in the war. After Finny became crippled from his injury, Gene’s sense of guilt and remorse was evident. When Finny came back to Devon, as a way of gaining forgiveness from himself, Gene did everything that Finny wanted to do: when Finny announced to Gene that he was going to get trained to go to the Olympics, Gene was reluctant at first. But Finny’s charm and charisma, once again, got the best of Gene. Soon Gene was running every morning and it felt magnificent. It was as though [his] body until that instant had simply been lazy an accession of strength came flooding through [him]… [he] lost [himself]… all entanglements were shed, [he] broke into the clear (120).
The moment Gene felt the rush of adrenaline while he was running made him aware that he was finally equal to Finny; however, by making Finny his equal, Gene finally started to try to befriend and get closer to Finny. At this point of the novel, Gene finally realizes that his envious nature towards Finny won’t get him anywhere and that learning to be independent and moving forward will not only make him better than Finny, but it will also make him feel good about himself.
After Gene returns to Devon School and reminisces back to his time as a student in the school, he comes to a realization that he wasted his teenage years being jealous of someone who could’ve been his best friend. After Finny’s second accident, Gene apologized to Finny multiple times, and only then did he begin to accept the responsibility of his acts. Gene gathers his thoughts later and states that wars were not made by generations and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in the heart (195). This quote points out to the readers that Finny was the only character in the novel who wasn’t ignorant and that he has never hated or hurt anyone; this conveys another reason of why Gene was always envious of Finny’s nobility.
Gene only recognized Finny’s integrity and generosity after his death, when it was too late. By the end of the novel, Gene realized that Finny was the only person he knew who was never influenced by pettiness or inhibition, he realizes that all of them, all except Phineas, constructed at infinite cost to themselves these Maginot Lines against this enemy they thought they saw across the frontier, this enemy who never attacked that way”if he ever attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy (204). When Gene finally acknowledges that he killed his enemy, he becomes aware that his only enemy was always been inside of him. This realization is what gives Gene Forrester a separate peace: a peace apart from the regret of having lost a true friend because of his envy and ignorance.
Throughout A Separate Peace, John Knowles makes the case that in order to define themselves, people create false enemies out of true friends. When Gene revisits Devon, he discovers that the school is still the same. So while the world was changing, the school remained the same. Unlike the school, Gene continued to grow, and so the very fact that the school remained unchanged made it seem to him like it was different. Gene finds comfort in the fact that he is now a grown up and that he has moved on. Knowles also addresses that accepting ourselves and moving on with our lives will always lead to freedom and forgiveness.
Gene pushes Finny
In the book “A Separate Peace”, by John Knowles, it talks about these two best friends FiInny and Gene. Finny always had a feeling that Gene wasn’t the exact person he wanted to be friends with. Deep down inside Finny is kind of a bad minded person. When Gene would handout with Finny, I think that Finny wouldn’t like it. Gene did become a better person when FiInny let go.
When Gene pushes Finny off the tree, he knew he regretted it and shouldn’t have done it. “I was not of the same quality as him, Gene says, suddenly perceiving his own moral inferiority to his best friend.” (14) Gene did like being friends with Finny at one point. Then the next Gene thought to himself that Finny wasn’t the right friend for him to have.
During the war, when Gene pushes Finny off the tree he says, he realizes he did a horrible mistake. He didn’t mean to do harm, but what he did was done and can’t be redone. The way Gene changed after the war was he become a wise individual who obtained his knowledge with age.
During the tree scene, Gene convinces himself that Finny isn’t his friend, tricking himself into thinking that Finny is a conniving person that wants to sabotage his academic learning, to take what Gene has. “For me, this moment- four years is a moment in history, was the war. The war was and is still reality for me. Understanding and do think in its atmosphere and knowledge.” (24) Gene didn’t care about FInny anymore. He didn’t think that what he did was wrong. Since Finny’s gone, Gene is able to do what he wants, to focus on himself and school.
The way Finny’s death affected Gene was that there was a sense love and loss between the two. They had a passive aggressive relationship. Their relationship was something dependent that only one thing had to happen in order for them to not be friends again. Gene was able to better define his own identity because of this experience. The death of Finny, forced him to break away from an identity that was fused with Finny. “I did not cry then or ever think about Finn, I didn’t even cry when I stood watching him being lowered into his families straight laced burial ground outside Boston. I could not escape a feeling that this was my only funeral”. It was take a complete separation from Finny for Gene to understand himself.
In conclusion, Gene missed the war because his war was active on school, he was trying to find peace within himself. He wanted to feel like everything was okay. He didn’t think about Finny at all. All he thought about was himself and how he was in school. He didn’t care about anything else. He lost that picture of FInny inside his head, he forgot about him. Long lost Finny, never seen or talked about.