The novel, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, tells the story of the narrator, Gene Forrester, and the tribulations he and his friends partake in. None of these friends compare to one such as Elwin Lepellier, also known as Leper. At first glance Leper appears to be an insignificant character and is not expected to play an important role. Look at the meaning of the word “leper”; a leper is a person who is shunned or rejected by others for reasons that can be either social or even moral. This indicates a deeper meaning to his character that the reader only gets a taste of at the opening of the book. Leper, extraneous to the reader at the start, proves to be essential to major events along the storyline.
To begin with, Leper is not the same throughout the course of the novel. Initially, he is seen as a bit shy and quirky, but as the story goes on, his personality transforms drastically. Enlisting in the war has a considerable effect on him; Gene discusses it with Finny and Brinker: “Leper’s not the little rabbit we used to know any more” (Knowles 147). He is not the timid Leper who does not talk much and is drawn to snails and beaver dams. He is the Leper that had “escaped” from the war—the Leper who went psycho. When introverted, unexplainable Leper gets sucked into World War II and is spit out in such a state, it should have been a sign to Gene and his friends that they were next in line on that same destructive list.
In addition, Leper makes a few declarations during the book that cause the reader to reflect upon them. “Everything has to evolve or else it perishes” (115). Thinking deeper into this statement, it is possible that this can partially relate to Finny. Finny is stuck in his own little...
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... theory by how he remains stuck in his own little world where the war has been created by fat old men; he did not change his perspective fully and therefore did not survive.
In conclusion, Leper is vital to the story, though he shows little of this in the introduction of his character to the reader in the first few chapters. The view the reader has of Leper is altered from him being farouche and peaceful to a deranged, senseless person. Even after this dramatic transformation, he still manages to keep his unique talent for being able to read deeper into matters of life. He is the one who is able to grasp Gene’s true “savageness” underneath, whereas Gene’s own best friend does not or chooses not to notice it. None can escape such icy tendrils, not Leper or any of his friends, so when one is touched by the virus known as war no one can stop the pain from spreading.
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