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Symbolism In John Knowles A Separate Peace

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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. Gene believes that Finny and he hate each other, until he realizes Finny’s pureness, which Gene can not stand. At first, Gene believes that Finny wants to exceed him, and that the two are rivals. Everyone at Devon likes Finny. The teachers adore him, the students look up to him, the athletes aspire…show more content…
Leper, Gene, and Finny demonstrate how people must “evolve or perish”. Finny symbolizes the “sacrificial lamb.” A Christ figure, Phineas represents the goodness in man. He throws himself down the stairs sacrificing himself for Gene, as Jesus did for man. Gene represents mankind and man’s capacity to hate. He shows how man can destroy, as in war, and that man must remove hate in order to achieve a “separate peace.” Finny sacrifices himself so Gene doesn’t end up like Leper, the outcast of society. Leper, a “naturalist,” represents the fragile, innocent people who hide from the horrors of life until one day they “meet it, the horrors face to face, just as (they) had always feared, and so give up the struggle completely” (196). Leper comes to one realization; people must evolve or perish. Gene, unlike Finny and Leper, can evolve. When Gene “sees dawn for the first time” at the beach with Finny, he sees himself. Gene, like dawn “was not as (he) had expected, but as a strange gray thing” (41). Surprised at what he finds, Gene’s witnessing of the sunrise that morning represents his progression; at first “gray”, and confused, then with “midnight green,” for his envy of Phineas, then “gray-white” when he sees himself, and finally “pure white” after he has confronts himself and becomes “Phineas-filled”. After watching the sunrise, Gene goes into the water. He…show more content…
Gene’s survival was dependent on Finny’s death. When Gene jounces the limb he shatters Finny’s leg, as well as his heart. Finny knows that Gene purposely caused his fall, but can’t let his “best pal” be exposed. Finny will do anything to save Gene from Leprosy. Finny realizes that Gene “just didn’t know” what he had done, and forgives his sin, which saves Gene. Without forgiveness, Gene would still be living in fear and hate, buried by his burden. Gene learns tremendously from his experiences. All his enemies were imagined, there was no need for “Maginot Lines” to protect himself from an enemy that didn’t exist. After Finny’s funeral Gene becomes “Phineas-filled” and his “war is over before it ever begins.” Gene realizes, “I was ready for the war, now that I no longer had any hatred to contribute to it. My fury was gone… Phineas had absorbed it and taken it with him, and I was rid of it forever” (195). Gene fights his “war” with himself, not Finny. Although Gene alone was responsible for his death, Finny forgives him and makes Gene ready for the war, now that his hatred has left. Gene returns to Devon to confront his problems and cleanse himself. Finny’s pink shirt can’t make Gene’s problems go away, Gene must confront them himself. He needs to move on with his life, after living in fear for 15 years. Upon Gene’s return, he notices several differences. The tree seems to have “withered
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