A Separate Peace is a coming-of-age novel about two boys at boarding school and their friendship during World War II. There are three significant scenes of violence that occur in the novel; however, the core of the plot is based upon one. The first and most poignant is the incident where Gene, the narrator, jiggles the tree branch while he and Phineas, his best friend, are preparing to jump, causing Phineas to fall and break his leg. The next scene of violence is when Quackenbush calls Gene a lame and Gene pushes him into the water. Lastly, Gene pushes Leper out of his chair while visiting him after he is accused of causing Phineas’ injury. All of these occurrences contribute to the overall meaning of the work.
One of the climaxes of A Separate Peace happens at the first scene of violence. Until this scene, the reader is unaware of Gene’s “evil side”. He is so overtaken by his jealousy and rage toward Phineas that he succumbs to his emotions and causes Finny to fall off of the tree branch. This shows the immature, childish side of the characters. Not only are they climbing trees, which is a behavior commonly practiced among children, but children also do not know how to handle feelings and emotions, and commonly react with violence. Gene then proceeds to dive off of the branch like nothing happened, apparently satisfied with his “achievement”; showing the reader that, like a child, there is little or no remorse for one’s actions.
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