A Separate Peace
Brittany Schafer September 21, 2012 Period 4 A Separate Peace Final Draft In the novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles, it relates to a complicated friendship of two young boys Gene and Phineas. Gene is jealous of Phineas’ achievements and lets his anger destroy their relationship. The boys at Devon in the summer of 1942 have to deal with the fear World War II brings. Each time the boys feel safe and peaceful, reality sets in and reminds them of the warfare around them. The boy’s mental stability is tested by the struggles of school and the causes of their actions.
John Knowles’ A Separate Peace displays how fear, warfare, and friendship can affect a person’s innocence and youth. Fear has affected Gene and made him paranoid with his friendship and war throughout the entire book. When Gene visits Leper after finding out Leper has escaped the war, Gene will not listen to Leper explain that he is insane. Gene tells Leper to shut up about the war and runs away crying because Gene is scared Leper has gone crazy. We know that Gene is frightened by what his friend has become by saying, “Do you think I want to hear every gory detail!
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Shut up!… This has nothing to do with me! Nothing at all! I don’t care! ” (143) Just when Gene thought he had made the war less dreadful, his own best friend has gone mad because of it. Gene is fearful in the Assembly Room when Brinker accuses Gene of causing Finny’s accident. Gene feels overwhelmed when Brinker tells the two boys that he is, “ ‘Investigating Finny’s accident! ’… I felt the blood flooding into my head. ” (159) Gene tries to stay calm when Leper is called in to testify, reassuring himself that Leper has gone mad and no one will believe him.
Gene lies to himself by thinking that “… Leper was no threat, no one would ever believe Leper; Leper was deranged… ” (164) Finny is also frightened to believe that his own best friend could cause his accident and leaves the Assembly Room in tears. Gene realizes that Finny has finally let himself believe Gene caused his accident, “Finny turned toward me. ‘You were down at the bottom, weren’t you? ’ he asked, not in the official courtroom tone he had used before, but in a friend’s voice (11. 147). When Gene tries to tell Finny that Gene caused his accident, fear has filled his whole body. Gene asks Finny what he think caused him to fall out of the tree to find out if Finny knows it was Gene. When Gene visits Finny and tells him he was at fault, he regrets telling him, “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. ” (62) Gene cannot handle the stress of telling Finny the truth that he is afraid he might black out.
Throughout the novel, the war has caused great worry, wonder, and fear for the sixteen-year-old boys at Devon who could enlist anytime. When the Boys open a Winter Carnival, it helps them believe that the war does not exist and gets their mind off the war. Gene is caught up yet again in Finny’s upbeat world by helping run this carnival. The boys’ happiness is interrupted at the end of the carnival when a telegram is sent by Leper informing the boys he has escaped. The boys not only deal with military warfare, but personal wars and feelings of hostility and resentment.
Gene learns that one mans only enemy was himself, “… this enemy they thought they saw across the frontier, this enemy who never attacked that way- if he never attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy. ” (196) Gene struggles to be self content and confident with his inner self and also with his athletic ability by competing with Finny. Gene shows his insecurity and ignorance about himself, by saying “I did not know everything there was to know about myself, and knew that I did not know it; I wondered… hether the still hidden parts of myself might contain the Sad Sack, the outcast, or the coward. ” (118) Gene starts to resent himself and try to make himself feel better by saying the Finny is jealous of Genes academics when in reality Finny is happy for Gene. Gene tries to comfort himself by thinking that, “We were even after all, even in enmity. The deadly rivalry was on both sides after all. ” (46) Gene shows his first sign of jealousy in the beginning of the book when Finny is able to get away with wearing his tie as a belt.
Finny refuses to believe that war exists which is his own way of dealing with trying to find a separate peace. Finny believes that war is not real and that grown ups and president FDR have just made the whole story up. When Gene and Brinker talk about enlisting, Finny gets upset and does not want Gene to enlist because Finny does not want Gene to go off in war and forget about his crippled friend. Finny also feels useless because he is crippled and he can not fight in the war and help end it.
The elements of friendship displayed in A Separate Peace are a combination of respect, jealousy, resentment and sometimes hostile. Throughout the book, Gene does show glimmers of respect for Finny and his outgoing personality. In the second chapter, Gene is glad that Finny has chosen Gene as his best friend and shows his admiration for Finny. Gene also admires Finny’s ability to get out of anything, his athletic ability, and his overall charm. Gene lets himself believe that he is to be taking over Finny’s life and living it for him.
Gene admits that his purpose all along was to have Finny play sports for him because of the accident preventing Finny to play. After Finny tells Gene that he will have to play sports for him, Gene thinks “… this must have been my purpose from the first: to become a part of Phineas. ” (77) Gene is caught looking in the mirror with Finny’s clothes on which resembles himself wanting to be like Finny. Gene lets Finny train him for the 1944 Olympics, which is something Finny can no longer do. Despite jealousy and resentment, Gene and Finny have an almost well rounded relationship.
Finny tells Gene that he is his best friend. In that moment Gene just lets it sink in for a moment after Finny says ” … and at this teen-age period in life the proper person is your best pal, which is what you are. ” (40) At the end of chapter 2, Gene starts to slip off the branch when on the tree, but then Finny reaches out and saves his best friend, and according to Gene, “If I had fallen awkwardly enough I could have been killed. Finny had practically saved my life. ” (24) Gene’s jealousy evolved throughout the novel causing him to lose touch with his best friend.
Fear, warfare, and friendship can almost always affect a person’s youth and innocence. Throughout the novel fear has affected Gene and his friends because of warfare and their future lives as men. The boys at Devon tried to keep themselves busy so they would not have to think of war, a kind of separate peace. But every now and then the war would touch the students at Devon. But there was always war going on at Devon, a sense of personal war. Friendships in the novel are tested with jealousy and Leper going crazy.