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The theme of rivalry and war in A Separate Peace

Absolutely everyone, at some point, has an encounter that so profoundly alters his or her life that it seems to define time itself. For many Americans, the tragic terrorist attacks that took location on September 11, 2001 fractured life into two pieces: just before and right after. Globe War II similarly affected the individuals of the era, specially teenage boys, for whom the globe of childhood was distinct from the planet of adulthood–the planet of war. The characters in John Knowles’s novel A Separate Peace struggle to discover their own identities during the transition to adulthood in the midst of the looming threat of Globe War II and their personal individual wars. Every boy at the Devon School reacts differently in response to expanding up. The complicated relationships among Leper, Finny, and Gene, as nicely as the plot and setting of the novel explore this identity crisis for the duration of a period of history when adolescent boys defined themselves in terms of the war, due to the fact the transition from child to adult was clearly defined by the military draft.

Despite the fact that he is unwilling to jump from the tree following Finny and Gene or volunteer to shovel snow, Leper is the first boy to respond to the draft and take the proverbial leap. His reaction to the war surprises everybody. Prior to he leaves, he is quiet and gentle, with a “wide and unfocused” smile (Knowles 99). Leper tends to make an crucial observation about responses to the war, proper ahead of he decides to enlist, when he says, “. . . ‘I’m virtually glad this war came along. It is like a test, is not it, and only the items and the individuals who’ve been evolving the correct way survive'” (Knowles 125). The war breaks Leper, in the end, since he can not manage modify. His hallucinations are of modify of the corporal’s face “changing into faces [he] knew” and into a woman, and a broom changing into a severed leg (Knowles 150). The ever-changing nature of the war damages him–he stays in the dining room since of the dependability of it, where “[he] by no means [wonders] what’s going to happen” (Knowles 142). He confronts the war as nicely as his future but is unprepared for the harsh reality of either.

Finny is the symbol of childhood and innocence. He is optimistic, but refuses to see the darkness in life, instead insisting, “The winter loves [him]. . .as much as you can say a season can love” (Knowles 111). This view that every little thing he loves will enjoy him back is sadly confirmed much more false than accurate in his rejection by the military and Gene’s jealousy for him. His fall, coincidentally beginning the fall of the school year and, metaphorically, the transition into adulthood, is the event which forces the boys at the Devon College to respond to the reality of war. Finny adjustments from an athlete to a cripple and need to cope with the concept that some thing he wants might not want him. He does this by locating a separate peace, a childlike unconcern, and pretending that the war can not have an effect on him in fact, he denies its existence totally. Gene describes him as “the essence of this careless peace” (Knowles 24). As the two boys close to the draft age, they remain hidden in this dangerous ignorance of the war–Phineas particularly, as he is also unaware of the second, far more personal war with his “best pal” (Knowles 48). Finny, the representation of the purity and perfection of childhood, escapes the sad fate of war, despite the fact that he unknowingly fights his own with Gene.

If Finny symbolizes childhood, Gene symbolizes adulthood and the impending war. To Finny, Gene’s “‘West Point Stride’ [is] intolerable” (Knowles 19). Gene has a diverse sort of crisis in the method of discovering his identity. He is caught up in himself, and how much he hates himself, and longs to be like Finny, who he loves. This is the basis for his one particular-sided war with Finny, prior to the death of Finny’s future when Gene jounces him out of the tree. In order to uncover his own identity, Gene has to move past his jealousy of Finny. He decides to remove the root of this jealousy totally. While Finny is innocent, Gene is guilty, and while Finny is genuine, Gene is sarcastic. Finny is a life-saver, who rescues Gene from tumbling from the tree, and Gene is a killer, who intentionally causes Finny’s fall. In the face of the bigger war, however, Gene reacts differently. He loses himself in Finny, in childhood, and the peace that accompanies it. It is only after Finny’s death, when the war seeps in, that Gene recognizes the reality of both wars, and comes to his personal epiphany–”wars have been made as an alternative by something ignorant in the human heart” (Knowles 201). Although this new thought shapes Gene, the way of thinking that Finny has left behind is ever-present. He says, “During the time I was with him, Phineas produced an atmosphere in which I continued now to live”–a way of holding onto childhood optimism by accepting as a lot as achievable “without a sense of chaos and loss” (Knowles 202). In this way, though Gene symbolizes the adult planet and inevitably succumbs to the reality of expanding up, he remains with a shadow of Finny’s peace.

How Leper, Finny, and Gene react to the war is what creates their identity: The war and the idea of war is so prevalent in their lives that it defines them. As the seasons alter and time presses forward, the boys change in their perspectives and develop their new identities in response to this fear of the future. It is with a matured outlook that Gene returns fifteen years after his time at the Devon College, and realizes that he has lastly moved previous his fear of expanding up. His experiences, darkened by the shadow of war, have left permanent impressions on his character. Similarly, the memories of personal, life-altering moments could lose their potency–the globe continues to revolve and evolve and time may be redefined in new ways–but their effects will constantly linger.
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