Individual Identity In John Knowles A Separate Peace

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A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, is an unsettling fable about the dark side of adolescence. The long-time American classic takes place during the early years of World War II at a New England boys’ boarding school, where Gene and Phineas are best friends, but become troubled by the loss of innocence as they progress in their adolescence. As the story progresses you see the two boys struggle to identify their own individual identity. The self-identity struggle both of the boys encounter serves as the basis for the major theme in the story of the threat of codependency to identity. In A Separate Peace Phineas (Finny) and Gene become a model of codependency. At the start of A Separate Peace Gene expresses envy and resentment towards Finny. Finny’s physical abilities in sports lead Gene to feel it necessary to accentuate his intellectual abilities in school. Gene’s need quickly turns into a one sided competition against Finny, until Finny falls out of a tree breaking his leg, exposing Gene’s darker feelings towards his best friend. Now rather than envy fueling Finny and Gene’s relationship, it quickly becomes fueled by their codependency on each other.…show more content…
Gene and Finny, two best friends and roommates, live vicariously through each other. Finny, known for his physical prowess, must live vicariously through Gene’s ability to compete physically after his crippling injury. Gene, on the other hand, lives vicariously through Finny by finding fulfillment and happiness in losing his own self to Finny’s. Throughout the novel the struggle continues even after Finny’s tragic death, leaving Gene to live in the atmosphere in which Finny created for them. Perhaps Gene is only able to reestablish his own identity later in life, despite it still being inferior to Finny’s
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