Denial of Truth in John Knowles' A Separate Peace

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Denial of Truth in John Knowles' "A Separate Peace"

The novel A Separate Peace focuses mainly around a 17 year old named Gene Forrester and his psychological development. The story is set in a boys boarding school in USA during World War II. There are four main boys in the novel and they all undergo major character changes through the story. One of them goes crazy, and the others experience severe attitude changes. Gene is caught right in the center of these changes. He is very close with all of the other three boys, and thus all of the changes affect him very much. Due to all the tension occurring in this novel because of the war and events going on at the school, there is a lot of denial of truth happening. Three of the four boys mentioned earlier deny the truth at sometime in the story. This denying of truth sometimes ends with the person who committed the fault in a bad condition at the end of the book, and sometimes in good condition. So it can be said that there were both positive and negative results for each of the denials of the truth, but these will be explained more in-depth in the following paragraphs.

Although it starts after half the book is finished, one of the major examples of denying the truth in the novel is Finny denying the reality of the war. Though it is disclosed at the end that Finny knew all along about the war, he succeeds, after a little time, in making Gene truly believe in the non-existence of the war (although Gene claims that he did not really believe the story, his behavior around his classmates and his actions say otherwise). The first result we see of this denial is Finny’s confession of his bitterness towards the world because of his loss. This destroys the image we have of Finny as a “perfect” person because it shows that he blames the world for his accident. It also stuns Gene so much that he begins to do pull-ups, even though he has never done even ten before. With Finny’s verbal help, Gene manages to do thirty. This solidifies the friendship between them. After this moment, Finny decides to take Gene into his confidence and tells him he wanted to go to the 1944 Olympics, but that Gene will have to go instead, and goes on to start training Gene. Finally, after many mornings of hard training, Gene finally “[finds] his rhythm”. Superficially, it can be said that due to Finny’s ruse about the war, Gene became very...

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... that all of the examples of denial of truth in the book end with the character in question facing a total attitude change. Leper becomes partially insane and much more assertive. Gene understands his feelings much better and is a changed person. It is like when Finny died some of his serenity entered Gene. Because he denied the war’s existence, Finny caused Gene to stay away from all their other friends (Brinker, Chet, etc.) and only talk to him. With Finny’s denying evil in other people it is a little bit more complicated. With each successive fall, it was like Finny’s character fell too. For example, after the first fall, the bitterness in Finny was shown and he also knowingly lies to Gene about the war. After the second fall, however, there is a bigger difference. He attempts to hide his pain at the ‘trial’, but after falling again, he can no longer mask his anger with Gene, and shows this when Gene comes to visit him in the night. He tries to attack Gene, but cannot get out of his bed to get near him. Finny has ‘fallen’ from his state of perfection and is like a normal person. He does show, however, that he still has the ability to forgive when he sees Gene for the last time.

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