Juxtaposition In A Separate Peace

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In the novel, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Gene is a teenage boy who attends the boarding school called Devon. Devon is a sanctuary for young men before in the midst of World War II. The boys’ lives are surrounded by influences of war and influences on each other. Gene lives with his roommate Phineas (Finny) who he spends the majority of his time with. Being surrounding by each other all the time, all the boys in Devon influence who each other are. Finny and Leper are the two of Gene’s friends who influence him the most.The juxtaposition of Finny and Leper characters symbolizes the contrasting aspects of Gene’s personality, ultimately critiquing the ideas surrounding young men in times of war. In the beginning of the novel, the contrast…show more content…
When Leper is the first to seriously enlist in the war it comes to a shock to all of the boys at Devon: “‘I’m going to enlist in these ski troops,’… Threats to enlist that winter were always declaimed like Blinker’s, with a grinding of back teeth and a flashing of eyes; I had already heard plenty of them. But only Leper’s was serious” (66). Before Leper actually went off to war, the war seemed to be a far off and unrealistic to the boys. The idea of enlisting was never considered a reality. They had “heard plenty of” young boys flaunting their choice but they were empty threats. After Finny fell out of the tree during his time in the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session he would never be able to go to war, no matter how badly he wanted to: “‘I’ve been writing to the Army and the Navy and the Marines and the Canadians and everybody else all winter… They all gave me the same answer after they saw the medical report on me. The answer was no soap. We can’t use you. I also wrote the Coast Guard, the Merchant Marine, I wrote to General de Gaulle personally, I also wrote Chiang Kai- shek, and I was about ready to write somebody in Russia’” (103). To Finny, he was always meant to be in the war, he was athletically skilled, always creating games and excelling at games and sports that mimicked aspects of war. Before his accident,…show more content…
Finny’s Finny’s private and emotionally connected confession of truly caring about Gene revealed a whole new unaccepted side of Finny: “...‘I know I kind of dragged you away at the point of a gun, but after all you can’t come to the shore with just anybody and you can’t come by yourself, and at this teen-age period in life the proper person is your best pal.’ He hesitated and then added, ‘which is what you are,’ and there was silence on his dune” (21). At Devon, Finny is admired for his strength and slightly egotistical confidence. During this time in society, men were not supposed to show strong variability, especially in times of war. This declaration of their friendship takes place alone on a forbidden beach representing their forbidden best friendship. The circumstances had been slightly forced as Finny “dragged” Gene “away at the point of a gun” symbolizes how Finny has pushed Gene to reach this point in their lives. On the contrary, Leper’s casual and public announcement of their friendship is simply dismissive as if displaying that emotion was normal: “I took the telegram from Phineas, facing in advance whatever the destruction was. That was what I learned to do that winter. I have escaped and need help. I am at Christmas location. You understand. No need to risk address here. My safety depends on you coming at once. (signed)
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