A Separate Peace

A Separate Peace

Length: 2077 words (5.9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Sitting in my third grade classroom we chattered anxiously, waiting for the spelling quizzes to be passed back. My teacher placed them all facing down on our desks, a rather pointless effort when she was already aware that at any moment the room would burst into havoc with yells of "what did you get?", shouting numbers back and forth, and of course superior comments from the students proud of their marks. I quickly flipped mine over and grinned at the 8/10 scrawled in red marker near the top of the page.

"What did you get?" sure enough my friend Jenny thrust me her paper. As I stared down at her 100% sitting aside a bright yellow smiley sticker I felt a familiar twinge of jealousy. From that day on I had a secret goal to achieve higher marks than my friend. I can not remember when this rivalry ended, but I do know that it is normal behavior.

Each person feels rivalry or competition to other humans, for the majority of their lifetime. This rivalry greatly affects our ability to understand others, and this eventually results in war, discrimination, and enmity. Children are definitely culprits for acting inhumane to each other with teasing, competition, and often hurtful remarks. Although this is the way children often act, it is in the teenage years realization, along with careful thought and consideration, brings each individual to understand wider prospects of human nature; that people coldly drive ahead for themselves alone. Man’s inhumanity1 to man is a way for people to protect themselves from having pain inflicted on them by fellow humans, and achieving their goals and desires free from interference of others.

The concept of man’s inhumanity to man is developed in John Knowles’ novel, A Separate Peace. The primary conflict in this novel centers on the main character, Gene, and his battling of jealousy, paranoia, and inability to understand his relationship with his best friend Phineas. Yet the larger battle of man’s inhumanity to man is portrayed by the backdrop of World War II.

Gene Forrester is an average, studious, young man attending Devon school in New Hampshire during the second World War. His roommate at Devon, Phineas (otherwise known as Finny) sends Gene on an unexpected journey of self discovery. Finny represents man in his innocence, a kind of edenic2 Adam. He is very athletic, honest and trusting.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"A Separate Peace." 123HelpMe.com. 17 Feb 2020

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Knowles' Separate Peace Essays: The Theme of A Separate Peace

- The Theme of A Separate Peace       The persistent theme of A Separate Peace is the deterioration of a complex friendship. The bond between two boys (Finny and Gene) becomes tested and attacked, as the reader observes a seemingly utopian relationship fall into decadence. Gene becomes challenged with various inner hostilities, while Finny, his proclivity for athletics revoked, has been forced to find acceptability and provocation elsewhere. Furthermore, the book commences during mid-to-late 1942, during the height of the Axis powers' success....   [tags: Separate Peace Essays]

Free Essays
465 words (1.3 pages)

Knowles' Separate Peace Essays: Maturity in A Separate Peace

- Maturity in A Separate Peace In A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, the focus spotlight is quickly turned upon Gene Forrester and his maturity through the novel. He expresses his ideas about the many subjects through the book through his position as the novel's narrator. Also, as the book progresses, so does Gene's maturity. The first chapter of A Separate Peace establishes the character Gene Forrester, who in actuality is a portrayal of John Knowles himself, according to a recent interview....   [tags: A Separate Peace Essays]

Research Papers
804 words (2.3 pages)

Separate Peace Essay: Self-Examination in A Separate Peace

- Self-Examination A Separate Peace opens as Gene Forrester returns to Devon School, a New England prep school, about fifteen years after he was in attendance there. World War II had just begun then and he remembers the Summer Suicide Society--an organization founded by his best friend, Finny, which devotes itself to initiating members by having them jump from the tree into the river. Gene and Finny always had to take the first jump from the tree. As time goes on, Gene begins to resent Finny because of his athletic talents and on one occasion, he jounces the limb so that Finny will fall....   [tags: Separate Peace Essays]

Free Essays
931 words (2.7 pages)

Essay on A Separate Peace

- A Separate Peace A Separate Peace is a novel by John Knowles that is about prep school experiences during World War II. This book was a good story about an adolescents attempt to understand the world and himself. I enjoyed reading about Gene's journey towards maturity and the adult world. This book takes place in Devon School, New Hampshire during a summer session when Gene Forrester was sixteen years old. One day Gene and Finny, his friend and roommate, went to a large tree by the river. Finny suggested that they try and jump from the tree into the river below them....   [tags: Separate Peace Essays]

Research Papers
2608 words (7.5 pages)

Friendship and Hatred in A Separate Peace Essay

- Friendship and Hatred in A Seperate Peace The line between friendship and hatred can sometimes be very unclear. Where exactly does one cross over this line. Could it possibly be when one discovers envy within himself for his friend, or is it when he begins to wish he is somewhere other then where he is. In the novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles, the friendship line between Finny and Gene is extremely unclear. What would cause ones best friend to jounce a tree limb in hopes the other would be harmed....   [tags: Separate Peace Essays]

Free Essays
661 words (1.9 pages)

Friendship in Knowles' A Separate Peace Essay

- A Separate Peace - Friendship   We have all experienced friendship in our lives; some of these bonds were lasting and others were not.  A Separate Peace is a book that deals with the friendship of high school boys. These boys attend an all-boy’s school called Devon School.  It is said that: "Devon is sometimes considered the most beautiful school in New England."  "Devon was both scholarly and very athletic."  Devon is where Gene Forrester, Phineas (Finny) and Elwin (Leper) Lepellier attend school.  Author John Knowles sets the story during World War II.  This time period makes the boys have to think about which branch of the military they want to enlist in....   [tags: A Separate Peace Essays]

Free Essays
1006 words (2.9 pages)

Gaining Insight in A Separate Peace Essay

- Gaining Insight in A Separate Peace A person often gains new insight as a result of a specific incident that he or she experiences. This point is clearly demonstrated in the novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Gene learns the profound meaning of friendship when he pushes Phineas out of the tree. When he learns that Phineas has this unconditional love for him, he becomes very guilty for what he has done....   [tags: Separate Peace Essays]

Free Essays
416 words (1.2 pages)

A Separate Peace by John Knowles Essay

- A Separate Peace by John Knowles A Separate Peace was written by John Knowles in 1959 when he was 33. it is ser in a New Hampshire prep school during WWII. A few teens at this school are greatly affected by the war. Many adults are asking them to join the armed forces. Gene, the main character, trains with his once athletic star friend, Finny, for the Olympics. Although against the war many people request that he join. His other friend, Leper, joins and receives a Section 8 discharge for being considered "mentally unstable." Even though against the war, many of the boys do join the troops just to avoid being drafted to the front lines....   [tags: Knowles Separate Peace]

Free Essays
788 words (2.3 pages)

Identity Crises in A Separate Peace Essay

- World War II, the major historical event during the life of John Knowles, the author of A Separate Peace, started in 1939. Germany instigated the war, and shortly afterward was joined by Japan and Italy. America, however, fought on the side of The Allies, England and France. Although the United States was still recovering from the Great Depression, it entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The military drafted men into the war, and women took their places in the work force, people abandoned the old way of life and looked forward to a new one....   [tags: A Separate Peace Essays]

Free Essays
2067 words (5.9 pages)

Free Essays - A Separate Peace

- In Knowles’ novel, A Separate Peace, Gene is portrayed as an intelligent student who is motivated by academics. He is also a thinker that considers a situation from all sides before making a decision. Gene is also a person who follows all the rules and regulations. He always obeys his teachers, studies hard, never misses a class, and makes excellent grades. He does not really enjoy sports, for he is not a good athlete. While in school he lets many distractions such as his friend Finny take part in his life....   [tags: Separate Peace Essays]

Free Essays
1310 words (3.7 pages)

Related Searches

Finny is one who enjoys life to the fullest, and pressures other people to enjoy themselves as well. He is a natural born leader, enthusiastic, and filled with endless energy. The two rivers surrounding Devon school, correspond with the measure of Finny’s innocence. The Devon river, that the Gene and Finny frequently jump into from a tall tree at Finny’s request, is clean and pure, "a refreshing shower" much like Phineas and his faulty innocence. The Nagumsett river, on the other hand, not only represents Gene, but the majority of the human race. It is muddy, sticky with salt, and leads into the ocean. The Nagumsett symbolizes reality and deceit, while the Devon river seems an element of human personality, that which is unadulterated, that does not survive in the real world.

In the early pages of A Separate Peace, Finny confesses that Gene is his best friend. It is considered a courageous act for the students at Devon to expose emotion. And rather than Gene venturing back with similar affection, he holds back and says nothing. Gene can not handle the fact that Finny is so compassionate, so perfect. In order to protect himself from accepting Finny’s compassion and risking emotional pain, Gene creates a silent rivalry with Finny, convincing himself that Finny is deliberately attempting to ruin his studies. Gene decides that the two are jealous of each other, and reduces their friendship to cold trickery and enmity.

Gene becomes disgusted with himself after weeks of the silent rivalry. He finally discovers the truth, that Finny only wants the best for Gene, and had no unfavorable intentions. This creates a huge conflict for Gene; not being able to deal with Finny’s purity and his own dark core. On this very day Finny wants to jump off of the tree branch into the Devon river at the same time as Gene, a "double jump", he says, as a way of bonding. It was this decision, caused by Finny’s affection for Gene and outgoing ways that resulted in drastic change for the rest of his life. Once up on the limb, without warning, Gene’s misunderstanding of his own identity and confusion towards Finny’s behavior explodes. He jounces the limb, sending Finny flailing to the bank below. At this point Gene feels extreme freedom from the web of rivalry that he has been living in. Gene also learns that he is capable of greater evil than he has ever imagined.

The act of Gene causing Finny to fall from the tree, shattering one of his leg bones, was one of brutal betrayal, inhumanity, and selfishness. Yet it was one of nature as well. Something that each human will experience in their lifetime; the ability to let their barbaric nature reign over their own personality. Later in the novel, Finny shows his understanding for Gene’s crime in this paragraph:
"I’ve gotten awfully mad sometimes and almost forgotten what I was doing. Something just seized you. it wasn’t anything you really felt against me, it wasn’t some kind of hate you felt all along. it wasn’t anything personal." In this quote Finny expresses understanding for the idea of man’s natural inhumanity to man. Each human has the ability to feel a multitude of emotions at any given time, with or without understandable reason. Sometime what one needs to feel, whether they are aware of it or not, can take control of their actions. This may be the way that one’s subconscious seizes the individual in order for them to learn what they need to learn to satisfy their mind, emotional state, or encourage spiritual growth.

Leper Leppelier, another boy attending Devon school is also treated inhumanely by Gene Forrester. From the time that Leper is introduced, it is shown that other students think him to be strange because of his idiosyncrasies. Instead of trying to understand Leper, other students distance themselves from him and underestimate his abilities and need to feel recognition. Leper spends time with Gene and Finny in the Devon river and playing sports. However, Leper does not enjoy sports. He is a quiet and thoughtful individual, shy and in love with nature. None of Leper’s peers ever expected him to do anything daring or unusual, Finny couldn’t even get him to jump from the tree into the river, so it shocks everyone when Leper is the first student to enlist in the army. After all, even Phineas could not convince Leper to jump from the tree into the river. Leper has decided to go to war to face his fears head on, but he does not expect war to be as barbarous as it is. Leper can not handle the reality of humans inflicting such immense pain on one another, and the war takes a huge emotional toll on him. He becomes delusional and manic. Leper was almost given a "section 8" discharge from the army, one for those who become psychotic. Leper sends Gene word that he has "escaped" from the army, and Gene goes to visit him at his home in Vermont.

It is at this meeting in Vermont, that Gene witnesses a side of Leper that he has never encountered before. Leper is angry, rash, and shows hate that Gene never knew existed. Gene also discovers that his dark core is not as well hidden as he had imagined. Leper points this out, "You always were a savage underneath. Like the time you knocked Finny out of the tree. Like that time you crippled him for life." The two boys find that neither is as human as they pretend to be. Leper is speaking honestly about his feelings, by telling Gene that he is a savage underneath. However, he slyly suggests that Gene was the cause of Finny’s accident as an attempt to provoke Gene to lose control. This daring gesture makes Leper feel more secure in his own insanity. He has used loss of reality as a form of escape, such that in the world he lives in now, nothing can hurt him anymore.

Gene and Leper take a walk, Gene sees what a delicate state hiss friend has fallen into as Leper describes his insane hallucinations. Leper tells Gene of his days in the army, the way he sees men turn into women, and brooms turning into human legs. As Leper continues to talk Gene becomes desperate and has no idea what to say to him. He tells Leper to shut up, and at last Gene’s facade slips away. "Do you think I want to want to hear every gory detail! Shut up! I don’t care! I don’t care what happened to you Leper. I don’t give a damn!" Gene runs off, trying to protect himself from becoming involved another’s problems. He is selfish and has shown Leper the true lack of compassion that Gene feels to everyone.

In A Separate Peace, Gene is not the only character to treat others with abuse or enmity. Brinker Hadley, another student at Devon provides an excellent example of man’s inhumanity to man. Brinker, a friend of Gene and Phineas, is an intelligent, obedient young man. He is the only individual, other than Leper, to imply that Gene was responsible for Finny’s fall from the tree. Late one night, Brinker and some friends take Finny and Gene to a mock court trial. In Devon school’s Assembly Room Brinker torments both Finny and Gene by inquiring about the accident. At this time Finny truly believes that Gene had nothing to do with his broken leg. But as the trial continues and more facts are presented by the other students, Finny becomes confused and suspicious. Leper, who had been spotted hiding in some bushes at Devon is brought to the trial as a witness. This of course, brings Gene tremendous panic, as Leper was previously introduced to Gene’s dark core in Vermont. Leper explains that he saw one boy on the tree limb move first, shaking the other boy’s balance. Leper is guileful, and wants to feel superior to the other boys, so when Brinker asks him if Phineas moved first, causing his own fall, or if Gene moved first, Leper is indignant and stubborn. He accuses Brinker of taking him for a fool. "I’m important. You’ve never realized it, but I’m important too. You be the fool, you do what ever anyone wants whenever they want it. You be the fool now. Bastard." And Leper provides no more information, although it is obvious that he is aware of Gene’s guilt. Phineas comes to the realization that Gene has betrayed him. He flees from the Assembly room, crying, and screams that he does not want to hear any more facts. Finny’s innocence, his beliefs about friendship, and his heart have been torn by Brinker’s need to inflict grief and panic on others.

Brinker is not at all interested in who caused Finny’s accident, or the well being of Finny or Gene in any way. Brinker, is a natural leader, and likes to assume control. It is possible that he was feeling a loss of control over the students of Devon since Finny’s return from Boston. This caused him to agitate the situation between Gene and Finny, proving how much change he could cause, and how much power over a situation he could assume.

In A Separate Peace the students at Devon are fighting a war, a microcosm to World War II. Each character, with the exception of Phineas is driving coldly ahead for himself alone. Phineas, on the other hand, possessed an extra vigor, heightened confidence, and innocence like no other. The boys survive by hurting each other, as do soldiers. It is the vulnerable, innocent ones who do not survive. Phineas was dropped from this race, and Leper made his own escape. Life’s race of Man’s inhumanity to man, as each centers on only himself, and people protect themselves to great lengths from getting hurt by others. Although this may be a natural way of life, nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not even a death by violence.
Return to 123HelpMe.com