Comparing Love and Sports in A Separate Peace and Goodbye, Columbus Essay

Comparing Love and Sports in A Separate Peace and Goodbye, Columbus Essay

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Love and Sports in A Separate Peace and Goodbye, Columbus

 
    There is a substantial difference in the way Goodbye, Columbus and A Separate Peace, both published in 1959, address the theme of sex; what there is galore in Philip Roth's novel, is conspicuously absent in the work of John Knowles. Apparently, sexuality was still a taboo at the time, and both books treat it as such: e.g., the discovery that their daughter is no longer a virgo intacta topples the world of the older Patimkins in Goodbye, Columbus (at least the father's sentiment seems to be genuine; whether "Mother Patimkin's" shock and subsequent outburst of indignation are equally unfeigned can be argued). Still, Roth's novel is fairly realistic in explicating sexuality as a driving motif behind its characters' actions, which cannot be said about A Separate Peace. Indeed, sex is a nonentity in the novel of John Knowles; the fact could have been explained by the strict discipline of the Devon prep school, had it not been for The Catcher in the Rye--the book that shows what a significant part of prep school life sex, indeed, was. There is only a few years' interval between the time of the action of these two novels--definitely not enough for morals to loosen so dramatically. One can but conclude that even for a book to have been published in 1959 A Separate Peace is remarkably chaste.

 

There is only one suggestive reference in the novel of John Knowles--the episode when Finny ignores Gene's warning that wearing a pink should could make him look like a fairy. Of course, the relationship between Finny and Gene itself can be interpreted askance: in his study on A Separate Peace Hallman Bryant draws attention to the analysis of George-M...


... middle of paper ...


...elationship of Brenda and Neil is smothered by the profoundest egotism reflected in their preoccupation with the material aspects of being.

 

It would be interesting to see what A Separate Peace would look like if the physical aspect of love in it was not superseded by sports. The dynamics of the character suggests that Finny, infinitely free as he is, knowing no fear, and majestically comfortable with breaking the rules, would be more than likely to have transgressed by the age of seventeen--out of sheer curiosity and goodness, in a Tom Jones way.

 

Works cited

Bryant, Hallman. A Separate Peace: the War Within. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co, 1990.

Halio, Jay L. Philip Roth Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1992.

Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. New York: Macmillan, 1961.

Roth, Philip. Goodbye, Columbus. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1959.

 

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