Gene is a 16 year old boy attending the Devon boarding school in the year 1942. He is an introvert who is trying to find himself throughout the book, A Separate Peace. Gene befriends a boy named Phineas, or Finny. Finny is the exact opposite of Gene, he is an extrovert who likes adventure and breaking rules. The two boys become close friends, but throughout their friendship Gene is jealous of Finny. Gene excels in academics, while Finny is fun and great athlete. Finny is the leader in the friendship and Gene feels that Finny is very controlling almost bullying him. Gene and Finny are both competitive, but Genes thinks that Finny wants to compete with him in everything. Gene is the protagonist in the story due to his competitive nature and his jealousy of Finny.
John Knowles, author of A Separate Peace, uses both character development and setting to support his decision in selecting the title. He uses the main characters of Gene and Phineas (Finny) and their troubled yet deeply bonded friendship as a way to illustrate the separate peace that takes place both within the boys themselves and in the friendship that is built between the two. Knowles also uses the setting of the novel to demonstrate the vast difference between the peaceful Devon School grounds and the war raging outside of the school’s walls. The title, A Separate Peace, as chosen by the author is symbolic of the main characters, Finny and Gene’s, struggle to find peace within themselves and with each other while set in a place that significantly contrasts the events of the real world.
Adam and Eve had a perfect Garden of Eden, until Eve ate the apple and contaminated the garden. In being tricked by the snake, Eve betrayed God’s word. Mankind has often betrayed others because of the darkness in their heart. In A Separate Peace, John Knowles uses Phineas as a sacrificial lamb to portray Gene’s savage side and demonstrate that peace can never be achieved at a worldwide level until man accepts the darkness in his own heart.
Devon, an elite boarding school, is highly competitive, forcing students to have envy for one another. In the story Gene’s envy for Finny is a constant theme throughout the book.Working little for his goals, it can be seen that Finny gets everything he wants using his persuasion and athletic abilities . As Finny’s friend it is easy to feel pushed away from the spotlight. Gene thinks everything he does with Finny is a competition. Although he lives, Gene is ultimately the one truly destroyed by his envy.
The first stage of Finny and Gene’s friendship is loyalty and rivalry. Gene usually does what Finny wants to do. If Finny wants to jump out of a tree, Gene will jump out of a tree. If Finny wants to go to a beach, Gene goes to the beach. Finny is very good at talking around people and getting out of trouble. He does not ever get into much trouble. Their rivalry started when Gene thought that Finny was trying to sabotage his grades and his studies. Finny used to ask Gene to go and do other things instead of studying. Gene normally did what Finny asked. Gene decided that Finny was trying to hurt him when they story states, “Suddenly he turned his fire against me, he betrayed several of his other friends,” and he was doing things on his own (102).
Novels have contrasting objects or places that help explain the meaning of the story. In “A Separate Peace,” the two rivers that surrounded Devon represented two worlds going on at the time. The Devon river, clear and clean, represented the school and the life of the students. The Naguamsett river on the other hand was dirty and nasty, this river represented the war happening at the time, which was World War II. The students at Devon would only use the Devon river, the reason behind this is that it was clean, omitting to use the disgusting Naguamsett river. Gene explains that the Naguamsett river symbolized the defective side of the world dreadful and unacceptable. Gene later illustrates how the Devon
He says, “ Never mind my studying” (Knowles 59). Gene is basically imitating his friend Phineas because he sees him as someone superior. Like Emerson said in “Self-reliance,” “imitation is suicide.” Gene is killing his own self trying to be someone he is not. In actuality, he is imitating Finny because he is envious. And the hostility keeps on growing. Significantly, after Finny breaks the swimming record and decides not to tell anyone. Gene feels that Finny is just trying to impress him, and to no one’s surprise, he exclaims, “you did hate him for breaking that school record, but so what?” (Knowles 53). He is being so blinded by jealousy that he cannot see Finny’s true colors. It is he who is becoming ignorant for not actually valuing their friendship. As a consequence, their friendship will slowly start to
Elizabeth Ross, a Swiss-American author wrote, “The most beautiful we've known are those who have known defeat, struggles, loss, and have found their way out of the depths.” In order to survive in the world we must realize that growing up comes with having to face your fears. The protagonists in John Knowles, Elie Wiesel, and J.D. Salinger books either fear losing their identity to cruelty, change, or their best friend. These fears tend to be the evil that the characters live with and shape their lives. What they do not get is that every adolescent endures evil; how they handle this will cause them to mature. Why would they want to face evil? The characters in these books isolate themselves from the reality of their fears. When they should
“Our minds are a battle ground between good and bad ideas; we are whatever side wins the battle” Bangambiki Habyarimana, The Great Pearl of Wisdom. The struggle between good and evil is found universally. In the novel A Separate Peace, Gene Forrester struggles between his own inner good and evil. Gene's actions often reflect his feelings, leading him to trouble, giving the illusion that Gene is filled with more evil than good. However, Gene's goodness can be found even through dark times. Inherent evil does not lie in Gene Forrester because he desires to be the best he can be, he feels guilt, and matures from adolescence to adulthood.
A Separate Peace has a very unique description of friendship. Throughout the book, Gene is jealous of Finny’s looks and what he is able to do. Gene has a lot of ambivalent feelings toward Finny. He wants to be Finny, but at the same time he is jealous of him. They are supposed to be best friends, but Gene envies him and thinks he is trying to make him look bad. After Finny’s accident, Gene struggled with guilt and his life was changed because of it.
Strength develops in someone through their experiences which have the ability to make them an emotionally stronger person. A quote by Ernest Hemingway presents that “the world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.” Even those who suffer the most will have the ability to bounce back at a stronger state. This theme reveals its relevance in A Separate Peace by John Knowles as we analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the main characters, Finny and Gene. Although some may insist that Finny’s emotional state fits the mold of a weak character, I have confidence that Finny has the most inner strength out of the two boys given his description and actions throughout the novel.
Finny was the top athlete at the school; even broke the swimming record without any preperation. However, his grades were barely passing, which was something he envied of Gene. Gene was one of the best students in his school and was determined to get valedictorian. Unlike Finny and his grades, Gene was a good athlete as well. Finny is very charismatic, slightly selfish, and always can get himself out of trouble. Gene is a bit more reserved and shy than Finny.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles tells the story of protagonist Gene Forrester and his life at Devon School. The story takes place during World War II, around 1942 in the setting of New Hampshire. Devon School grants Gene as well as the other boys attending a privilege, being they were excluded from the war going on around them. Regardless of whether or not the boys had actually experienced or been involved with the war, it did not stop it from effecting their everyday lives. Gene is challenged by a few things during his year in Devon. Most importantly, the impact the war leaves on his life, as well as his relationship with his best friend, Finny. Although two very different things, both end up greatly affecting
The quote “Envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide,” (Emerson 370) accurately describes Gene Forrester from “A Separate Peace”. John Knowles is the author of “A Separate Peace” and it is set in New Hampshire at Devon High. Gene Forrester is not your normal protagonist; he thinks his best friend Phineas is “out to get him” and he eventually grows to envy him. He used to conform to Finny in the beginning, but he later grows into his own character. “A Separate Peace” portrays how Gene’s envy and imitation affects himself, his relationship with Finny, and how he finds his peace, or lack thereof, at the end of the book.