A Separate Peace

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Gene’s Self-Fabricated Wars and their Basis of Ignorance in A Separate Peace Often, one may sense a conflict that one must fight against an intangible enemy that one feels is there. The temptation of competition, envy, or peer pressure can cause one to change one’s actions and ideals, even when this conflict only prevails in one’s own mind. When the mind generates a war that does not even exist, the premise is most likely an incomprehension of the subject matter, leading to assumption about the situation based on one’s knowledge, creating a self-waged war. These controlling cranial concoctions remain an important theme in literature, especially literary compositions on the subject of historical wars themselves. One such example lies in A Separate Peace by John Knowles, a novel on the subject of World War II from the perspective of prep school students. In the novel, the protagonist Gene creates his own wars based on the ignorant presumption that his associates compete with him, his personal battles reflect the large-scale wars fought by adults, and Knowles utilizes these personal wars to convey a moral lessson to the reader. In the novel, Gene fights a competitive war through ignorance and his mind’s creation, changing his endeavors and goals. Gene narrates this notion of mutual competition with Finny as when he is “more and more certainly becoming the best student in the school; Phineas was without question the best athlete, so in that way we were even. But while he was a very poor student I was a pretty good athlete, and when everything was thrown into the scales they would in the end tilt definitely toward me. The new attacks of studying were his emergency measures to save himself. I redoubled my effort” (Knowles 55). Here G... ... middle of paper ... ...g an indistinct blur and not an individual. In A Separate Peace, Gene’s cluelessness leads to an imagined mutual competition with Finny, resembling the war in the setting of the novel, and teaching the reader about ignorance in human nature as a moral to the story. Little knowledge about one’s surroundings, combined with a misconception about one’s own identity, leads to the creation of unnecessary conflicts, actions, and goals. Like characters in great literature, people “see” their enemies in the world around them and engage themselves in a war, ultimately straying them from their natural path. In life, the gain of experience and avoidance of assumptions about the world based on one’s lack of knowledge will lead one to avoid these unavailing engagement with the creations of our own mind, and to realize one’s individuality, and the choices one truly wants to make.

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