A Separate Piece Essay

Summary: In John Knowles' novel A Separate Peace, the main character Gene is constantly fighting his own private war, in9 both his mind and his social life. However, Gene's biggest enemy is not his best friend Finny, the other students, the war or society; rather, it is himself.


The novel, A Separate Peace, revolves around one character more than any other. The name of this complex character is Gene. John Knoweles presents these complexities many times throughout this great piece of literature. Gene is the narrator. He is however very unreliable regarding insights into his own reasoning and motivations. Gene is a disturbed young man, who has failed to change during his adolescence and not even when we are confronted with his later self. He constantly is fighting his own private war.

Gene is constantly confronted with WW2. Throughout the story however, we realize that Gene is going through his own little private war, and that the boarding school is his battle ground. This war is fought on two fronts, his mind and his social life. In his mind he suspects his best friend, Finny, of conspiring against him. He believes that Finny is holding him back from studying, and thus doesn't want him to become head of his class (Valedictorian), thinking that Finny feels superior in their relationship and wants to keep it that way. After reading the novel however, you realize that this is all in his mind.

The other front, his social life, is being fought every day. It's typical boarding-school life. People fight for popularity and are competitive in academics and athletics. Finny is more popular and more athletic than Gene. Gene solves this problem by causing Finny to fall off the tree. At this time us readers don't now for sure if it was deliberate or not, and neither do Gene or Finny. Eventually we find out that it was deliberate, but that maybe he did it subconsciously. We are confronted with this Idea when Finny says, "It was just some kind of blind impulse, you didn't know what you were doing...."p. 191, and Gene confirms that.

But was it really just a blind impulse? Or was it Gene going through an emotional phase, confronted with feelings like jealousy and hate, and very unsure about his relationship with Finny. We will never now for sure. "He had never been jealous of me for a second. Now I knew that there never was and never could have been any rivalry between us." This is when Gene realizes that doubting their friendship was simple paranoia, that the only enemy is himself

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Symbols in A Separate Peace, by John Knowles Essay

585 Words3 Pages

The theme “rite of passage” was used in the novel A Separate Peace, by John Knowles. This moving from innocence to adulthood was contained within three sets of interconnected symbols: summer and winter, the Devon and Naguamsett Rivers, and peace and war. These symbols served as a backdrop upon which the novel was developed. The loss if Gene Forrester’s innocence was examined through these motifs.

The summer and winter sessions symbolized Gene’s loss of innocence. During the summer sessions, the boys of Devon were carefree and showed no respect for the rules, while the teachers put no effort into enforcing the rules. “This was the way the masters tended to treat us that summer,” (Knowles 23). Together, Gene and Finny formed the…show more content…

The Devon represented innocence, and all of the fun times Gene and Finny had together with the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Sessions. When Finny fell because Gene jounced the limb, it was as if the Devon turned in to the Naguamsett. “We had never used the lower river, the Naguamsett, during the summer. It was ugly, saline, fringed with marsh, mud and seaweed,” (Knowles 76). The Naguamsett was unfamiliar territory to Gene, unlike the Devon. These rivers figuratively represented a change from adolescence to adulthood.

The final set of symbols, peace and war, served as a backdrop for Gene’s adolescence and maturity. The Summer Session was a time of peace, it was fun and relaxed. There were no rules for Gene and Finny to follow. “We reminded them of what peace was like, of lives which were not bound up with destruction," (Knowles ). Unlike the summer session, which was full of peace, the winter session was filled of war. The war came to Devon when Leper enlisted. It hit Gene even closer when he found out that Finny had tried to enlist into the war but no one would accept him. "I also wrote the Coast Guard, the Merchant Marine, I wrote to General de Gualle personally, I also wrote Chiang Kai-shek, and I was about ready to write somebody in Russia,” (Knowles 190). Gene’s

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