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Loss of Innocence

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In A Separate Peace, John Knowles carries the theme of the inevitable loss of innocence throughout the entire novel. Several characters in the novel sustain both positive and negative changes, resulting from the change of the peaceful summer sessions at Devon to the reality of World War II. While some characters embrace their development through their loss of innocence, others are at war with themselves trying to preserve that innocence. Knowles foreshadows the boys’ loss of innocence through the war, and their constant jumps from the tree. While getting ready for the war the boys practice and show off their skills on the tree by the Devon River. These jumps are done for fun yet the boys see them as a routine, something that has to be done. Knowles brings the theme of the loss of innocence in the novel for the first time by portraying Finny as the defender who gets the boys out of trouble by saying they had to jump out of the tree (22). This foreshadows how the innocence of the boys will be banished from themselves and their world. The tree also symbolizes the Forbidden Tree of Knowledge. Just like it is forbidden to eat the fruit, jumping from the tree was not allowed as well. By jumping from the tree the boys symbolically accept their loss of innocence, just like Adam and Eve accepted theirs. Throughout the novel Gene loses his innocence and matures under the influence of Finny. Gene gradually lets go of his childish jealousy over Finny, who he believes is superior to him and feels hatred towards. He however comes to realize what Finny’s friendship holds for him and recognizes his need to be a part of Finny. Gene first gains confidence in himself and starts maturing when he refuses to lie about his rich heritage... ... middle of paper ... ...u” (191). The tragedy of the immorality and evil in the world is unbearable for Finny. He loses his innocence and dies from a broken heart. Throughout A Separate Peace, Knowles carefully, yet successfully develops the inevitable loss of innocence theme. He is able to prove the Latin inscription “Here Boys Come to Be Made Men” (165), by describing the necessity of transition to adulthood. If Finny never accepted the tragedy that occurred to him and the new perspective of the world, he wouldn’t have been able to live beyond his illusion. If Leper didn’t let go of his imaginary world of nature, he would not have been able to become the individual he is at the end of the novel. And if Gene did not try to fight his enemy he would not have resolved the issue of self-identity. Knowles effectively develops the theme, thus portraying it as a necessary part of life.
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