A Separate Peace-John Knowles Essay

The novel A Separate Peace is a narrative about two best friends. Gene and Phineas ( Finny ) . who both attend the Devon school in New Hampshire in 1942. Gene Forrester is an rational. confined. priggish 17 twelvemonth old. while Finny is an athletic free-spirit who isn’t afraid to state what he thinks and is admired by everyone. The narrative is a flashback in which Gene recalls his frights and insecurities during the thick of the Second World War at the Devon school.

Out of green-eyed monster and the fright that Finny is seeking to undermine his surveies. Gene shakes a tree subdivision that they were both standing on. and Finny falls out of the tree and shatters his leg. It is at that point where their relationship alterations into more of a codependency which leads to them developing their ain single individualities by populating within their ain semblance that World War II is a mere confederacy. Finny dies all of a sudden during the operation on his broken leg. but Gene doesn’t call. He deals with the tragic intelligence with a kind of repose because he believes that he is a portion of Finny.

Gene reflects on the changeless hostility which takes over the present young person. and he believes merely Finny was immune to this pestilence. A Separate Peace is a novel that criticizes society. based on a romantic point of position of human nature. First. Gene’s aggressive nature is being nurtured by societies preoccupation with competition. inner-enemies. and power. Contrasting to Gene. Finny has a natural goodness about him that has non been corrupted by society. Last. the Devon school is a symbol of competition and fight of the universe. which has produced a annihilating war on a much larger graduated table.

Gene Forrester is the storyteller of the novel. stating the narrative as a flashback on his vernal yearss at Devon. He is the beginning of all the reader’s information. but is slightly an undependable beginning. sing his penetrations into his actions and motives. We see that he has an aggressive nature about him which has been nurtured by societies preoccupation with competition. inner-enemies. and power. We first meet him as an grownup. therefore we instantly assume a kind of adulthood and wisdom about him and his memories at Devon. The grownup Gene is. in world. still the same as the adolescent Gene in footings of frights and security.

He sees the Devon edifices as “defensive” so “exhausted” ( 3 ) which is a representation of himself as an grownup. We see that nil has changed over the old ages. non the school. and most significantly. non himself. After the accident. him and Finny lived in codependency. Finny lived through Gene. As the reader. we see that by Gene’s actions by equalising them and going at the same degree may hold been calculated. even though it seemed like an accident to everyone else. The fact that Gene shook the tree had stemmed from a deep personal desire to lose his individuality. and himself in another.

This is represented when he puts on Finny’s apparels and sees that he looks merely like him. He feels queerly peaceable. This symbolizes Gene’s ain desire to go forth himself and go Finny. for he is his ain “war” yet besides his love. The accident causes his feeling of bitterness and fright to be overcome by devotedness to Finny. We see this inner-war develop as he continuously tries to do peace and apologise to Finny. an lone so can he forgive himself. The shaking of the tree stirred up an unconscious urge that sets the concatenation of events taking to Finny’s decease. doing Gene the slayer and destroyer of the one thing he loved.

He is his ain enemy. and the destroyer of himself. because he felt that he and Finny were the same individual. That is why he didn’t call at the funeral. because “ [ he ] could non get away a feeling that it was [ his ] ain funeral. and you do non shout in that case” ( 186 ) . We see here that he has a inclination to blend love and hatred. which is practiced as a wont by society. His action in the tree is besides an inherent aptitude. which is based on a crude aggression. defensiveness and competition which is the side of human nature that is being nurtured by society. Gene symbolizes the narrow. confined. kind of paranoid universe that surrounds humanity.

He ever leans towards the regulations that are set. When Finny wants to travel to the beach. Gene creates a scenario in his caput that Finny is seeking to undermine his surveies. and from at that place. descends into darkness. This fright of his is. in actuality. a defensive anxiousness which finds a possible menace in everyone. This is shown when he says “I was used to happening something lifelessly in things… and if it wasn’t at that place so I put it there myself. “ ( 92 ) He us unable to allow up his defences because he sees the enemy everyplace. but the enemy is himself.

Society teaches the male childs to develop a peculiar frame of head that creates an enemy wherever they see a possible menace. This defence mechanism merely creates inner-enemies. and it is what corrupts the young person. On the opposite terminal of the spectrum. Finny has a natural goodness about him that has non been corrupted by society. Finny’s character is seen through the eyes of Gene. therefore his perceptual experience of Finny is important. He is able to speak his manner out of any state of affairs which. harmonizing to Gene. is rare among worlds. He has a “calm ignorance of the regulations with a winning impulse to be good” ( 16 ) .

His hypnotic personal appeal shows merely how different he is from the other characters by his component of goodness and artlessness. He is so different because he operates outside the universe of regulations and authorization. which he considers to be “a necessary evil” ( 11 ) . which in footings agencies that the regulations are made to be broken. He is the kernel of careless peace in humanity which is so rare. Yet. while he invariably tests the bounds of authorization. he neither seeks to be winning. nor be defeated. This is represented in the game of Blitzball. where everyone furiously competes but no one wins. and this absolutely demonstrates Finny’s attitude towards life.

Another illustration of this is when he broke the swimming record. He merely wanted to “see if [ he ] could make it” ( 35 ) . and Gene calls him “too good to be true” ( 36 ) . which shows how Gene and the other male childs may see artlessness and freedom. They are uncomfortable with people demoing sincere emotions ( 40 ) . and they see the enemy everyplace. Finny has “a simple unregulated friendliness” ( 15 ) which has to make with a more profound wisdom and goodness sing other human existences. Merely like he doesn’t see life as victors and also-rans. he besides thinks the best of people. and no 1 is an enemy in his eyes.

His premises that the universe is friendly make him alone. For illustration. Gene believes that society creates enemies where they do non be. but Finny’s inability to see others as immorality or hostile is his strength and failing. His sightlessness of Gene’s dark motivations create unsafe state of affairss in their codependent relationship. and he ne’er imagines that Gene’s feelings for him are non every bit true as his feelings for Gene. He inspires Gene in trueness but besides jealousy by his magnetic personality. He assumes that everyone thinks like he does. therefore he acts with himself and Gene in head. making whatever he pleases.

His care-free attitude is what triggers Gene’s bitterness and Finny. aware of merely himself. ne’er picks up on Gene’s darkness. He “was the kernel of this careless peace” ( 16 ) . being the 1 who facilitates most of the boy’s merriment throughout the school twelvemonth. While they are all caught up with the war and nisus for themselves to one-up each other. Finny creates a protective bubble around them to screen them from turning up. His inclination to hold merriment and be care-free is an indicant that there is a run of decency in human nature. but this basic artlessness besides makes him vulnerable to those unlike himself.

The Devon school is a symbol of competition and fight of the existent universe. which has produced a annihilating war. In the beginning of the novel when Gene is an grownup. he revisits the school. He sees the “contentious harmony” ( 4 ) of the edifices. which is an oxymoron because it reflects the thought of competition. It tells us that the school edifices are “perpendicular” and “straight-laced” . and stand for the universe of order and regulations. This harmoniousness of the edifices is a fast one of architecture. In world. Devon represents a universe of competition. competition and one-upmanship practiced by the pupils as a wont.

The school is merely a symbol of the universe on a much larger graduated table. where competition has produced a war. Sing others as enemies is common in both the school and society. Everyone but Finny is “pitted violently against something in the universe around them” ( 196 ) . This something around them is Devon. being their chief influence to see everyone as a possible menace. The Devon school is a “jungle” of a boys’ school ( 45 ) . where ill will and aggression on a smaller scale lead to war on a much larger graduated table. Their adept competition is mentioned when Gene states that “there were few relationships among [ them ] at Devon non based on rivalry” ( 37 ) .

The seasons at the school besides represent a alteration and transmutation in the male childs. The summer session at Devon is a clip of freedom. where the instructors allow Finny’s hypnotic personality to acquire away with whatever he pleases. The session symbolizes young person and artlessness. which in bend comes to an terminal when Finny falls from the tree. This event marks the beginning of the winter session. where the ambiance is drab and dark. filled with subject and work. It represents maturity and war nearing them. and becomes a more prevailing characteristic throughout the class of the novel.

The passage from the summer to the winter session embodies societies displacement from a care-free nature. to a darker. more mature one. We don’t see Finny passage because he is unable to confront maturity and dies. therefore ne’er come ining into the school’s new manner of being. As he reflects on his clip at Devon. Gene explains that he “was on active responsibility all [ the ] clip at school ; [ he ] killed [ his ] enemy there” ( 196 ) . This suggests that everyone is combating an on-going war with themselves. seeking an enemy battle. The school is simply a battlefield on a smaller graduated table. but still has the same consequence.

Finny’s artlessness caused him to supervise these impressions of war and hostility. which lead to his decease. In the other instance. Gene had an on-going war with himself. and/or Finny. In either instance. it demonstrates Finny’s inability to get by with treachery. He is the lone character in the novel that doesn’t undergo the school’s strong influence on the male childs. that prepare them for the war they have to contend after graduation. The function society plays on the school and the male childs is their chief influence for their actions. The fresh criticizes society based on a romantic position of human nature. and this nature has been explored in many ways.

Gene’s interior barbarian and aggressiveness had been nurtured by societies preoccupation with competition. district and power. Finny’s natural goodness has non been corrupted by society. but his artlessness caused him to film over esteem with jealousy lead to his decease. Finally. the Devon school is the chief symbol or competition in the novel. which represents the war on a much smaller graduated table than the war in world. The natural paranoia of the human race leads one to seek an enemy wherever they may see a possible menace. and this leads to devastation and inner-enemies in the terminal.

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