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A Separate Peace Critical Analysis Essay Essay


John Knowles' A Separate Peace is a young boy's attempt to discover personal identity in an always-transforming world. Gene develops an intense resentment towards Finny because he holds and shows charm, talent, integrity, and relies on pure achievement instead of competition. Gene suspects that Finny has become jealous his academic accomplishments and has tried to distract from his studies. His accusations transform into hate and he later finds out that Finny resents him. But in all reality it is Gene who resents Finny and his resentment increases when Finny does not attain a reciprocal envy. When Gene's acts resentment drives him to enacts malicious thoughts and behaviors, he suddenly realizes that his real enemy lies not with Finny, but within himself, Finny's lack of comprehension with reality destroys him, and war is an internal conflict that beings spend their lives fighting against(This view is also shared by Bryant Hallman).

Gene is very intelligent who ultimately adores and is jealous of Finny. He increasingly loses character and thinks to disperse it with his friend. Gene copes with his jealousy by convincing himself that he and Finny were "even after all, even in enmity. The deadly rivalry was on both sides after all(Chap 3)." He gradually realizes his awareness of his resentment towards Finny, and the idea of a "deadly rivalry(chap 3)" sustains Gene for a while. It allows him to devoid having guilt when at the same time driving him to excel academically despite of Finny. When he suddenly discovers that Finny doesn't share neither his sense of competition or resentment, Gene sinks into further lower resentment towards Finny. His next envy for Finny's moral superiority transpires when Gene realizes Finny "had never been jealous of me. Now I knew that there never was and never could be any rivalry between us. I was not the same quality as he. I couldn't take this(chap6)." His anguish at the epiphany deepens Gene's isolation and self-pity towards himself. He refuses to acknowledge the feelings of resentment and insecurity as the real enemy and his fears furlongs into Phineas. With Finny appointed as his nemesis, Gene plunges into a world of competition and hate, where the critical elements worth holding is his own survival and authority. Ultimately, his act of self-deception consequently pushes his unconscious impulse towards the large tree by the riverside. Even though Gene terminates his envious character trait by letting Finny fall from the tree, he obliterates Finny's peace and places his one companion into a paraplegic(The rivalry is recognized by all three sources cited) .

Blitzball is the metaphor for individual struggle where each person finds himself alone, and conflicting emotions and desires harm the individual's success and welfare. Gene begins to become weary and is knocked while Finny excels, surpassing every competition. Gene figures that Finny is untouched by low self-confidence. He plays for his own gain and works not for competition but for the glory. Later a snowball fight erupts where the students must defends themselves. Although this time, all forces turn on Finny. Due to Phineas, "loyalties become entangled(Chap7)" and he is unable to win at his own game. His defeat consequently proves his inability to triumph over the hatred surrounding him, and is the only one that is not beaten by himself, but a victim of everything and everyones (especially Gene's) self defeat. The peace and bond that Gene lost becomes for him so self-conflicting that he doesn't see Finny depart from himself, especially shown when he quotes that Phineass funeral is his own. The athletic training for Gene allows Finny to live vicariously through the portal of his friend. However, Gene welcomes the attempt explaining, "I lost part of myself to him, and a soaring sense of freedom revealed that this must have been my purpose from the first: to become a part of Phineas." Just as Finny sprouts inner strength due to achieving thes dreams through Gene, so does Gene find peace in losing his identity in Finny's self. Gene realizes that Finny, alone, hadn't created an internal nemesis in himself explaining "nothing even about the war had broken his good harmonious and natural unity(Chap 10)." All people's "simplicity and unity of their characters broke" when they felt an consuming hostile, and pricked violently toward the world around. Finny alone is immune to this spirit of enmity, Finny doesnt even acknowledge the enemy from those around him. He embraces the peace that Gene attempts to accomplish, and his physical blessing is the parallel of the harmony inside him. The innocence contributed to moral greatness in as Phineas leads to his own self-destruction due to the fact that it renders his inability to see the revelation of betrayal before him.

The environment consumes Gene internal battle as Gene's body becomes a battlefield where heightened emotions and fear of combat for absolute control of his actions. Gene explains that WWII is not the reality of battle because "I was on active duty all my time at school, I killed my enemy there.(Chap 11)" The war inside the hearts of humans exists independently within each individual being. Adolescence confronts manhood and the fears that develop when change becomes a reality. With the turmoil of adolescence, it's the achievement of dark forces of human nature that Gene comes to suddenly realize that the most critical wars are not made by external causes, but "by something ignorant in the human heart.(Chap 12)" The students of Devon High realize casualties of this new changing environment by persuading to themselves that the real enemy, the cause of their fears, lays beyond the outsides of themselves. Gene realizes that internal war is a fundamental aspect of adult human life, and as people find their private enemy, they spend their lives defending themselves. The term a "separate peace" indicates that peace achieved is not part of the surrounding reality, which for Gene, is a world of conflict. The good times that the older Gene remembers is due to the periods of complete freedom achieved during the late summer of 1942 and the following school year, a times that a sixteen-year-old could live without knowing consequences or rules, and not concern themselves about the upcoming reality of WWII(Theme is shared and recognized by all 3 authors cited in references).

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