A Separate Peace: Friends or Foe? Essay

A Separate Peace: Friends or Foe? Essay

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During the 1940’s in America, times were hard. It was a time of war. In this period of history, people found themselves looking for peace and innocence. John Knowles’s A Separate Peace illustrates a boarding school, one of the only places left to find peace, where the main characters, Gene and Phineas, face their own internal wars with each other. Starting out their friendship seems strong and everlasting but as the novel progresses, like all friendships, the fire between them seems to dwindle. Although they share the goal of excelling, Phineas and Gene clearly differ in athletics, academics, and personality.
Gene and Phineas are not like every other teenager during this “gypsy summer” (Knowles 79). They share a bond like no other boys even though they differ in all aspects. Gene tells us in the novel that “Phineas always had a steady and formidable flow of usable energy” (Knowles 39). Finny is constantly on the move, whether it is riding bikes to the ocean, swimming, or wrestling; Finny enjoys using his athletic talents. Phineas even reveals one day to Gene, “Did I ever tell you,” he says in a husky tone, “that I used to be aiming for the Olympics?”(Knowles 117). Finny knows he is a good athlete and believes the Olympics are the best physical challenge. He is by far Devon’s best athlete (Bloom 14). Gene in comparison is not as strong as an athlete. Gene refers to himself as “a pretty good athlete” (Knowles 55). Gene does not realize what kind of athlete he really is until Phineas pushes him when Finny is no longer able. Gene has a “usual feeling of routine self-pity when working out” (Knowles 120). Phineas, however, is always ready for the next athletic challenge. He has trophies and ribbons and even broke a school record. Fin...


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... hard enough as it is, these two boys compete constantly with each other throughout the novel, although one is unaware he is competing. Like people still in today’s time, Gene and Phineas are going through life-changing experiences. During these changes, Gene and Phineas do not realize what they have been looking for this whole time is peace. Even though Gene and Phineas claim to be best friends, they still completely differ in athletics, academics, and personality.




Works Cited

"A Separate Peace." Literary Cavalcade 2 Feb. 2001: p12, p6.
Adney, Karley K. "A Separate Peace." Masterplots November 2010: p1-3.
Bloom, Harold ed. Bloom's Guide's: John Knowles's A Separate Peace. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008.
Eckhardt, Anita M. "John Knowles." Critical Survey of Long Fiction January 2010: p1-4.
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. New York: John Knowles Inc., 2003.

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