A Separate Peace

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A Separate Peace: by John Knowles

During World War II in the struggle for peace among nations comes a smaller, but still significant struggle, in a prep school boy becoming a man and waking up to reality.

In the book A Separate Peace, the author John Knowles, creates the image of two sixteen-year old boys struggling to keep what little sense of peace they know, even though there is a war going on all around them. Gene Forrester, the narrator of the story also struggles with an inner conflict of his secret resentment of his best friend Phineas (Finny). Phineas struggles with the disbelief that he can never be of any use to the war efforts with a “busted leg.”

Gene Forrester, the main character in the book, returns to his old prep school-Devon- that he attended some fifteen years earlier. While there he remembers the incident that changed his life. In the summer of 1942, Gene and his friends stayed at their prep school for the summer session. His best friend in those days was a boy named Phineas, or Finny. During that time World War II was going on and the sixteen-year old boys were trying to preserve the peace in their lives, before they would be old enough to be drafted into the war-just one year later. One day Finny, the best athlete in the school, came up with the crazy idea to jump out of a tree into a river. All of the seventeen-year olds had accomplished this task because it was a mandatory test for the war. Phineas, naturally was the first sixteen-year old to conquer this feat; so Gene was the second. None of the other boys ever tried the jump. After a while the two made it an almost day-to-day activity. The two boys were a lot alike, but Gene had this underlying resentment of Finny and he felt that Finny was deliberately trying to make him do badly in school because he was constantly dragging Gene along with him to go jump out of the tree. One time Finny decided that he and Gene should do a double jump, since that had never been done before. While up on the limb, Finny is the further out then Gene, and Gene gets this sudden impulse to shake the limb, which sends Finny plummeting into the shallow part of the river, breaking his leg. After the accident, Finny could never play any sports again; merely being able to walk is a blessing. For the duration of the ...

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...t contribute to any of the war efforts himself. He wrote to every group that was associated to the war and fighting for the peace, but he always got the same reply saying that they had no use of a person with a crippled leg. Gene finally wakes up to reality when Finny dies. He realizes the way of life that he was living while a Devon, and the type of person that he had become. After Finny died though, Gene discovers that he created a war between himself and Finny that never existed.

The author gets his point across and does a very good job at it. The book was very interesting and enlightening. It makes the reader think about their friendships and their life in general. People should not let little things rule their lives. Underlying resentment could build up to something very dangerous and destructive. The reader also learns from this book that there is a big world out there and one needs to become mature enough to fulfill their adulthood duties. The author lastly shows that everyone is fighting their own personal war, but how someone handles it is based on their maturity and their knowledge of knowing the difference between imagination and reality.
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