Adam and Eve had a perfect Garden of Eden, until Eve ate the apple and contaminated the garden. In being tricked by the snake, Eve betrayed God’s word. Mankind has often betrayed others because of the darkness in their heart. In A Separate Peace, John Knowles uses Phineas as a sacrificial lamb to portray Gene’s savage side and demonstrate that peace can never be achieved at a worldwide level until man accepts the darkness in his own heart.
Gene believes that Finny and he hate each other, until he realizes Finny’s pureness, which Gene can not stand. At first, Gene believes that Finny wants to exceed him, and that the two are rivals. Everyone at Devon likes Finny. The teachers adore him, the students look up to him, the athletes aspire to be like him. Finny has no enemies. Gene, however, sees through Finny’s “cover” and thinks they hate each other. He hates Finny for beating A. Hopkins swimming record, and for making him jump from the tree, and for being better than Gene. When Finny takes Gene to the beach, Finny tells Gene that they are “best pals.” Gene does not respond to Finny’s sincere gesture because he thinks Finny wants to sabotage him. Gene realizes that he and Finny are “even after all, even in enmity. The deadly rivalry was on both sides after all” (46). Gene has no proof of Finny’s hatred, but Gene needs to find a way to be even with Finny. Once he decides they are even, he must now surpass Finny, so he jounces the limb. Gene’s hatred takes over, only now he realizes that the hatred only comes from one side. Finny is pure. He never hates Gene; he loves Gene like he loves everyone else. Ge...
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... past, it would go away. Instead the “stale air” rushes out at him when he reopens the door and causes him to deal with his feelings all at once, drenching him. Gene has gone through another rite of passage, on top of his graduation, baptism, jumping from the tree, and Finny’s funeral. By letting out the “stale air” and understanding his inner self, Gene reaches his “separate peace.” As a result, Gene becomes a sadder, but wiser, man.
Gene’s experiences throughout the novel, along with Phineas’ death, contribute to his survival and progression as a person. Gene realizes the only enemy he ever had was himself, and becomes pure and Phineas-filled after he confronts and conquers himself. Knowles compares a New England prep school to the Garden of Eden to show man’s flawed nature and that man always ruins what he can not understand.
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