Friendship In John Knowles A Separate Peace

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While there are a plethora of themes in John Knowles' novel, A Separate Peace, one of the most significant themes is friendship. The World English Dictionary defines a friend as "a person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection, and loyalty." A Separate Peace explores conflicts between two close friends, Gene Forrester and Phineas. Gene is a studious, hardworking boy, while Phineas, or Finny, is an adept, natural athlete. They are well acquainted at the beginning of the story, but the connection between them becomes questionable as Gene's starts to have mixed feelings about Phineas. Gene grows envious of Phineas' athletic ability, and believes that Phineas is jealous of Gene's academic skill. He suspects that Phineas is trying…show more content…
For example, after Phineas accuses Gene of trying to be class Valedictorian, Gene thinks, "It was all cold trickery, it was all calculated, it was all enmity" (Knowles, 46). This marks one of the darkest moments in the relationship between Gene and Phineas, and Gene's hostile feelings culminate in the climax, when he causes Phineas to lose his balance and break his leg. Had Gene stayed a true, loyal friend, Phineas may not have injured himself. Also, it can be seen that Phineas was deeply affected by Gene's betrayal. For example, he was fairly positive that Gene had jostled the limb, but he could not bring himself to admit it. He felt that, if he admitted that Gene had ultimately broken his leg, he would be putting the friendship between him and Gene in jeopardy. After Gene tells Phineas that he jostled the limb, Phineas angrily replies, "I'll kill you if you don't shut up." (62) This shows how much Phineas values his friendship with Gene, as he is willing to go to extreme extents to preserve it. However, Phineas' inability to admit the truth ultimately brought his own death. Near the end of the story, Brinker held a trial to determine exactly what happened between Gene and Phineas on the tree…show more content…
For example, in the beginning, the seemingly utopian relationship between Gene and Phineas showed how they are both good characters at heart. There was little to no conflict between the two, and there were no unfriendly feelings between them. However, as the story progresses, the reader sees how this relationship falls into decline, as Gene goes from being amiable to unstable and paranoid, while Finny is unfalteringly friendly. For example, as Gene and Phineas are getting ready to sleep at the beach, Phineas says to Gene, "You are [my best pal]." (41) Gene thinks about returning the compliment, but he does not. At this point, Gene is starting to lose trust in Phineas, and the reader sees that the friendship between him and Phineas is becoming strained. However, after Phineas breaks his leg, Gene feels genuinely guilty, and he realizes that Phineas never had any ill-disposed intentions. From then on, Gene constantly sought to visit Finny and apologize to him, and he tries to work together with Finny. He also starts trusting Finny a lot more, which is evident when Finny lies to him that "[Fat old men] cooked up this war fake" (106) and Gene believes him. This situation shows how Gene is becoming much more agreeable with Finny. Later on, when Gene enters Phineas' room after sustains a second injury, Finny exclaims, "You want to break something else
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