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A Separate Peace: Boys to Men
World War II influenced the boys in the novel A Separate Peace, written by John Knowles, by making them grow and mature more quickly than they would have had there not been a war. The war makes some boys stronger and more ready for whatever life would bring, while in others it disables them to the point that they cannot handle the demands of life.
The maturing influence of the war on Finny is a considerable one, even though it does not seem to the other boys that he is growing up at all. Gene's jealousy leads him to the point where he has to destroy Finny's greatest asset, his skill in sports, just so that he does not have to be the "popular guy's friend.” Gene knocks Finny off the tree limb and he breaks his leg. Everyone at Devon, except for Finny, suspects that Gene, and not Finny’s loss of balance, caused him to fall off the branch.
Finny's outlook on the whole situation is very grown up. He does not blame anyone but himself, even though the accident is not his fault at all. Finny seems as though he will never grow up; his immaturity is shown through his silly denial of the war's existence and his habit of always coming up with strange things to do just for fun. Inside he is suffering with the anger and hurt of being excluded from the one thing that he wants to do most: fight in the war. This is an excellent example of how the war suddenly makes the boys grow up into men. They have to face adulthood, and in order to do that, they have to become adults.
***I think you could develop this more. You say that Finny began as immature, but his reaction to his accident is very grown up. Discuss specifically how the accident has made him become an adult. Why did he not react immaturely this time?
Another boy in the story who was matured by the war was Leper. When he sees the movies about the ski troops, he thinks that it looks fun and he surprises everyone by enlisting. Leper does not quite know what he is getting into when he enlists. He thinks that it looks like a fun ski trip; he can serve his country and ski around the world at the same time.
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The third, and last, character that gains growth from the war is Gene. At one point, Gene and Brinker decide to enlist together, but Gene backs out of it because he feels that he is not ready. This shows that Gene has begun to mature. Gene feels that he has some debt to pay or some peace to settle, perhaps, before he ever goes to war. He shakes the limb with Finny on it as a search for that peace. He thinks that if he gets rid of Finny, even though Finny is his best friend, that everything will be fine. He finds that he was wrong; it only makes things worse because soon after Finny is injured, Gene discovers that Finny never meant to overshadow him or force him into doing anything he did not want to. It takes almost the whole novel for Gene to finally mature enough to go to war and fight for his country. It is not his fault that he does not mature as quickly as some of the boys, but he is not rushing into things. He is finding and fighting for peace within himself before he ever sets foot on a battlefield.
These three boys exemplify how the war impacted the lives of millions of boys in America and other countries around the world. They were boys one day and had to be men the next. World circumstances forced them into a situation that they were ill equipped to handle. They had no warning of how difficult circumstances would become nor how much courage would be required to surmount these circumstances.
****Very good. You do an excellent job of supporting your main idea -- that the war forced these boys to grow up. I would suggest discussing Finny a little more. The support that you use for him is not as complete as the other two. Use some more evidence from the plot, maybe even some quotes. Watch verb tenses; in these kind of papers it’s really difficult to be consistent, but you have to choose to either talk about the novel in present tense or past tense and then stick with it throughout the whole paper. Good job!