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John Knowles' "A Separate Peace" and Struggle for Power

Satisfactory Essays
John Knowles' "A Separate Peace" and Struggle for Power

John Knowles' A Separate Peace depicts many examples of how power is

used. In A Separate Peace, two opposing characters struggle for their own

separate might. Gene Forrester, the reserved narrator, is weakened by his

struggle for power. While, Phineas was inspired by his own power within. The

novel conveys how peace can weaken or inspire during a mental war.

Phineas, a natural rebel, is known as the best athlete in school. For

example, he and three others come to look at a tree, which is considered among

the Upper Middler students at Devon an impossibility. Phineas demonstrates his

supreme power by stating that the tree is, indeed, a "cinch" (p. 6). No Upper

Middler had dared to do the unthinkable, vaulting off a tree to land in a

shallow river. Phineas is the first to do this. This single statement tells us

much about him. He doesn't mind taking risks, enjoys intimidating others, and

over exaggerates. It tells that he is very strong and powerful to be able to do

what others can not do. The denotation of power is "the capability of achieving

something." Not only is Phineas achieving something from jumping off this tree,

he is achieving power by gaining the respect of fellow classmates. Phineas'

spontaneity inspires many others to be like himself and jump off the tree.

Another example of Phineas' power is his character establishing scene of

disrespect to the school by wearing his pink shirt and the Devon School tie as

his belt. We here, again, see him as the spontaneous individual who "can get

away with anything" (p.18). Phineas' nature inspired Mr. Patch-Withers, a

teacher at Devon. Phineas has an eloquence about himself, allowing him to get by

with so much. Phineas "might have rather enjoyed the punishment if it was done

in some kind of novel and known way" (p.20). Even with negative actions,

Phineas can enjoy a situation if it presents something new and different. It is

this spontaneous and contradictory nature which Gene cannot understand and

which ultimately contributes to his attempting to destroy Phineas.

Gene Forrester, after being gone for fifteen years, returns to the Devon

School to recollect his past memories of the summer session when he was sixteen

years old. As stated before, Phineas was considered the best athlete in school,

but Gene tried to compensate by being the best student in school. Gene's

continuous competition with Phineas weakened his personality, hence causing

Gene's rebellion on Phineas. Gene begins to think that his purpose is

"to become part of Phineas" (p.