A Separate Peace (Growth Through Change: the Fall from Innocence Into Awareness) Essay
Cory Wynn Ms. Abell English 8 29 September 2006 Growth through Change: The Fall from Innocence into Awareness Growing up is an inevitable part of life. Since the beginning of time, starting with Adam and Eve, during this period of maturing, the body starts to grow, and mentally, the mind begins to develop, seeing life with a new perspective and realizing the harsh realities of the world. Just as a toddler must eventually learn to ride his bicycle without the training wheels, all people must learn to leave the safe haven of childhood and reach out for maturity.
It is throughout the change from adolescent to adult that one leaves behind his innocence and other certain purities. One will usually experience this act of maturing or growing up as a result of a traumatizing event, sudden shock, or a terrible outcome. It is after developing into a full-grown individual that one can begin to make intelligent choices on his own, learn from his experiences, work successfully autonomously, and learn to accept his new outlook on life.
In John Knowles’ novel, A Separate Peace, Gene Forrester matures from an innocent teen into an aware adult.
Gene develops into an experienced adult, as he begins to understand that all aspects of his life change. He grows when he comprehends that the physical world transforms. Fifteen years after the loss of his good friend Finny, Gene Forrester finally returns to a very emotional scene, his old high school, Devon. Upon arriving, Gene is quite eager to find a special, certain tree. He trudges across the vast fields until he reaches the woods, where he begins to inspect the foliage. He is relatively surprised when he sees a scattered, uniform grove of trees.
When a decade and a half ago, the same tree he had been looking for had appeared to be an immeasurable colossus compared to the others. Gene continues to look through the trees, examining each one, trunk by trunk. When he finally finds the single tree has been looking for, the one with countless small scars rising along its trunk, he realizes that, “This was the tree, and it seemed to me standing there to resemble those men, the giants of your childhood, whom you encounter years later and find that they are not merely smaller in relation to your growth, but that they are absolutely smaller, shrunken by age.
In this double demotion, the old giants have become pigmies while you were looking the other way” (Knowles 6). Gene’s ability to realize that this certain tree, which had felt incredibly large as a teenager, but now, seems much lesser as an adult, signifies a growth within Gene. The awareness that the tree is not as scary or as threatening as it used to be, suggests that Gene is able to learn the world will continually change and become less frightening. It is through these attainments that Gene grows from watching the bodily world transfigure.
Gene also sees that the substantial world changes, on his poignant visit when he walks through his old school for the first time in quite a long while. He perceives the school as being fairly different and newer than when he had been a student there fifteen years earlier. Gene slowly walks around the school, viewing all the adjustments that have been made since he had been a student there. Gene finds that the desks are nicer and that a new wing has been created and added to the Dean’s residence.
These changes scare Gene and make him begin to wonder that, “Everything at Devon slowly changed and slowly harmonized with what had gone before. So it was logical to hope that since the buildings and the Deans, and the curriculum could have achieved this, I could achieve, perhaps unknowingly achieved, this growth and harmony myself” (Knowles 4). The changes within the school allow Gene to relate changes elsewhere to his own life. Seeing the changes that the school has undertaken makes Gene rather uneasy because he has been unaware of the changes that he, himself, has gone through.
Seeing these physical changes, in the school, forces Gene to have the realization that he too, may have grown through change. Not only does Gene realize that the material world alters, but he also grows when he learns that his mental state changes. Gene’s greatest companion, Finny, passes away, leaving Gene with a rather new mindset and outlook on the world. As Gene reminisces about Finny, he considers all that Finny had taught him, not just about sports, or having fun, but about life. Gene recalls how innocently, peacefully and calmly Finny was able to live.
As he remembers more, it only continues to seem clearer that Finny has showed Gene a way to look at the world with purer eyes. Gene becomes conscious to the fact that the world’s realities do not necessarily need to be accepted at one time, and comprehends, “When they began to feel that there was this overwhelmingly hostile thing in the world with them, then the simplicity and unity of their characters broke and they were not the same again” (Knowles 194). By losing Finny, Gene is able to look at the world and his life, from a third person stand point.
Gene is able to see that, although many others begin to feel that there is an unfriendly force in the world acquainted with them, it may just be a mental illusion, in which their own creation changes them forever. Gene shows an alteration within his mental state. He is learning to see and examine life from an aware adult’s position and the growth within his character is becoming quite apparent. Gene also grows from his mental state changing when Gene’s high school experience is coming to an end and he begins to think about the war, his friends, and his experiences.
Gene remembers how Finny used to say that the war was completely fake, created as a practical joke by fat, foolish old men watching from behind the scenes, and how others said that it was just a way for the old men to relive their glory days. But as Gene contemplates these ideas, he cannot help but think that these reasons are just used in order to comfort one. He continues to ponder the idea of war, and then realizes, “It seemed clear that wars were not made by generations and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart” (Knowles 193).
Gene begins grasp that enemies may not be enemies for a great reason, but rather may be because people seek enemies. This deep thinking signifies augmentation within Gene’s perspective and understanding, as he learns to see things more three dimensional instead of flat. Gene’s ways of thinking begin to change as he no longer looks at others as the enemy. Therefore, through experiences of change, Gene develops from a pure adolescent into an alert grown-up.