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In "A Separate Peace" many characteristics of becoming a man can be seen. For example, as the novel progresses, so does Gene's maturity. Gene's first seen in the novel as a boy, not yet brought on by nature, but as one gets deeper into the novel, one sees change; Gene embarks on life change that all men journey through once in their life. Gene begins to see his life and others from a totally new standpoint, as though even from a newer perspective. In Chapter two and chapter three, Gene, develops a sheer envy for Finny, and acknowledges it as the truth. He is extremely envious of the methods in which Finny uses to escape his unusual actions and his popularity. He embeds himself in a pool of self-assurance, by repeatedly telling himself over and over again that having
a best friend like Finny is an accolade and he should see it as an achievement. However, this transparent excuse of Gene's maturity at this point, portrays a very young, foolish, and selfish young man. "It was hypnotism. I was beginning to see that Phineas could get away with anything. I couldn't help envying that a little, which was perfectly normal."(Knowles p. 25) Here we see Gene as a simply confused young man who doesn't know the real value of friendship, and can't refuse a feeling of envy towards his so called "best friend.
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sorry for his action showing his respect in Finny grow even stronger, by
training in place of Finny for the 1944 Olympics. A possible reason for
Gene's sudden spurt of maturity is the tremendous guilt that brought
forth when Finny rejects the idea that his best friend shook the limb of the
tree that Finny fell off of. "If Phineas had been sitting here in this pool of guilt, how would he have felt, what would he have done? He would have told me the truth."(Knowles p. 66) It took Gene's newly acclaimed maturity for Gene to put himself in Finny's place and realize this. Towards the end we see that Gene's
maturity has come to its peak, after feeling the pressure of his friends,
who try to target him for Finny's crippling injury. He also faces the truth
behind Finny's injury, and confesses to Finny the true reason behind his
action. This makes it clear that Gene's mind has forced him to grow
up; it has forced him to realize his boyish selfishness and stupidity behind
some of his actions. The greatest hurdle overcame by Gene, learning to live with what he's done, finalized his maturity. This painful step allows him to completely mature. Gene's self-acceptance and self-forgiveness conclude his maturation. He has to accept that he may not live a perfect life and that he, like any other normal being (even Finny), has faults. Accepting that his innocence has been lost helps Gene move on into another part of his life and realize that he can never return to the days of his innocent youth again. He can now become a man, enter the war and adult world and leave his youth behind. Forgiving himself finishes his last step of maturity which allows Gene to lead a normal life and enter society. He must finally forgive himself completely for his blind act and allow himself to "come in out of the rain". "I never killed anybody and I never developed an intense level hatred for the enemy. Because my war ended before I ever put on a uniform; I was on active duty all my time at school; I killed my enemy there."(Knowles p. 204) Gene finally accepted his ill-minded act of envy toward his rival/ best friend /enemy.
Throughout the novel, we see Rey's confusion as he tries to determine what kind of a man he wants to become. He observes the differences, and the tensions, between the machismo of his uncles and his father, who has made a conscious decision to be a different kind of man. Rey desperately seeks to define a manhood style that can make him feel emotionally strong, intelligent, noble, but yet stand up for what he believes in. "Outside my door, I could hear him pacing. Apa, the man, was there pacing back and forth like a lion might do to keep his cub safe from all danger. I so wanted to be like him." (Saldana p. 181) Rey wanted to be like his dad or which informally he wanted to become a man, and not just a man, the right kind of man. In chapter two Rey observes the food table, how it has been divided into two sections. On one side of the table there are the soft drinks and food, while on the other side there are alcoholic beverages and that's where the men of the family are standing and drinking. "Rey, come and sit over here with the men."(Saldana p. 14) One can sense that Tio Santos' manhood has to deal with drinking liquor that's strong and only a strong man has the capability of handling. Tio Santos also starts to question Apa's manhood since Apa refused to take a drink of Vodka. The emotional atmosphere starts to build up when Tio Santos insults Apa and Apa just shakes his head and does not respond. Rey stares at his father and for a second and knows that his man enough father can stand up to his brother. We can clearly sense it when Rey refers to Tio Santos taking a step too far and if he was questioning Apa's manhood there would be trouble. Rey remembers of the many times Apa has talked about standing up, defending yourself. Rey becomes aware of the different manhood styles and starts to wonder what a real man should be. "Let's just do this, Rey," Lety said. "I know you're the big eleven-year-old man and think you're just too cool for this, but let's dance this one song, and then you can go back to acting tough with you hands in your pockets and trying to look a cool-like" (Saldana p. 33) Once again the idea of being a man comes up and Rey's attitude seems to affect the atmosphere of the story because there's no way he can think of that dancing and manhood go together. Lety senses it too, so she pinches his muscle and comments that lifting weights has helped build Rey's muscles pretty stiff trying to reinforce his sense of manhood. We notice Rey's attitude changes for a second once he starts to dance. He observes Lety and notices different facial features he was not aware of before and he notices that Lety makes for a pretty girl, even though there will not be any way he will tell her because he thinks that comment would be to childish. Rey observes Apa and Tio Angel arm wrestling and he notices how his Tio Angel gives in and loses the match and how he laughs, once again noticing the style of manhood his Tio Angel and Apa portray. Apa and Tio Angel's manhood can be described as noble, sincere, loving and taking situations like losing with humor and as opposed their manhood being questioned. Tio Angel transmits to Rey that he looked real sharp in his tuxedo "Como un hombrecito". Rey becomes aware that a person does not have to dress in any certain way to be considered macho. We can easily become see, along with Rey, that there are different ways of becoming a real man and Rey starts to sense that manhood is not just about drinking alcoholic beverages and being arrogant like his Tio Santos or doing something that goes against what a person considers right. When Rey find outs that Tio Angel has been shot dead and the family starts to mourn, especially Apa, Rey becomes the comforting shoulder. Rey had never seen his dad cry so Rey feels this responsibility to help his dad overcome this painful moment. We experience this feeling when Rey states, "He must have had a hard time not being able to show his true emotions. And this morning, I was able to offer my shoulder to Apa and more importantly he accepted it" (Saldana p. 175) You can sense that Apa was right, Rey did get stronger, not physically but rather emotionally.
To some, becoming a man may become attainable by going through puberty, performing some kind of manly act, like sex or something relevant to that or maybe even like in some cultures where performing some kind of ritual initiates them into manhood. To some people manhood comes through what their religion says; Christianity says that just by going through puberty you have achieved manhood; Jewish people have a Bar Mitzvah ceremony when the boy is 13 years old which symbolizes his transformation from boy to man. But a real man will always truly characterize a boy who has become aware of his environment and surroundings, who has accepted the responsibilities of himself and those placed upon him by others, who can accept that he can't be perfect and can accept his misdoings in life, who has attained the traits of a leader; courage and fearlessness; and finally a person who wants something better out of everything he does in life, and then after he has realized and accepted all of this, he may then call himself a man.