Friendship and Tragedy in John Knowles' A Separate Peace Essay

Friendship and Tragedy in John Knowles' A Separate Peace Essay

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Friendship and Tragedy in John Knowles' A Separate Peace


Some friendships last forever and others do not but in the novel, A Separate Peace (1959) by John Knowles, displays a different kind of friendship. The reader throughout this novel was very entertained. This novel takes place at the Devon Preparatory School in the years of 1942-1943.

This story begins when Gene Forrester comes back to the Devon School fifteen years after his graduation to relive a tragic story. He walks up to a tree and the story then begins in the summer of 1942. When Gene arrives at the school he meets a very intriguing person by the name of Phineas also known as Finny, they end up starting the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session, where they meet every night at the big tree by the river. Later, in the story Finny and Gene decide to skip school and when they get back Gene has to take a test and fails, which he blames it on Finny. Then one night at the tree Finny is on the limb of the tree that jump from into the water Gene causes the limb to move causing Finny to fall. This fall breaks his leg. Finny is out of a school for awhile and when he returns to school there is a mock trial held in order to determine if Gene caused this on purpose. Finny is astonished by this a leave the courtroom he falls down stairs re-breaking his leg. Finny dies in the operation to reset his leg. Gene finishes out his senior year and leaves and the school is turned into an Army base. Throughout this novel both Gene and Phineas display the theme of friendship. Sometimes friendship is valued most through tragedy.

From the very beginning of the novel Finny was displayed as a character that everyone wants to be around. He is a very athletic boy who excels at every...


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... the night before Finny and Gene had a conversation just like they did in the early stages of their friendship. The artist of this novel states, "We started to laugh again, with a half-guilty exchange of glances, in the way that two people who had gone on a gigantic binge when they were last together would laugh" (147). This shows how they spent there last night together. Later Finny died in the operating room when they were trying to reset his leg.

John Knowles had the reader interested throughout this whole novel. This novel showed how friendship is sometimes valued most through tragedy. Tragedy occurs when even a person does not mean to cause harm. A person will never truly value their friendship except through tragedy. Gene and Finny had created their "separate peace." Creating peace between them helped them get through their tough times when tragedy struck.

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