Gene And Finny's Loss Of Innocence In "A Separate Peace" By John Knowles

1026 words - 4 pages

In "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles, it is evident that Finny and Leper undergo the most traumatic experiences from the Class of 1943. Through these experiences, both characters lose much of their innocence and naivety. Finny, upon learning of the existence of the war and Gene's moment of hatred, learns to accept realities and perceive the world as it is, not as the perfect childlike image he wants it to be. However, when Leper enlists in the army, he quickly begins to have hallucinations because the reality is too much for him to handle. Nevertheless, he eventually overcomes his insanity and seems to be fairly mentally stable by the end of the novel. Although Finny and Leper's traumas are the source of a major loss of purity and childhood, they are also the cause of post-tramautic growth and a necessary increase in maturity.Finny goes through several perception-changing events during the course of the novel, but the event that cements his departure from childhood is the acceptance that Gene deliberately shook Finny off the tree. This shock was caused by his own inability to accept the truth in the first place. Despite the ease of denying unwanted information and living in a dream world, it is mentally unhealthy for Finny because of the shock caused upon finally believing the truth. Immediately after Gene's confession of jouncing the limb, Gene remarks that Finny looked "older than I had ever seen him" (62). Finny, however, does not yet comprehend feelings of jealousy and betrayal, as he has hardly had any himself and finds it difficult to think of another's point of view; the information registers on his face, but before he has time to process it and mature he rejects the idea entirely. Gene states "it occurred to me that this could be an even deeper injury than what I had done before" (62). The reality of adult themes such as jealousy, betrayal, and hate is what hurts Finny most, not the crippling injury itself. Another reality that takes away from Finny's nescience is the war (when he finally believes in its existence). The most dramatic and stunning war in recent history, World War II had a huge impact on millions of lives worldwide. Yet Phineas refused to believe in the war, and instead created a fantasy in which he was the one of the only people who knew that it was all a hoax. When Gene, in disbelief from Finny's opinion, questions Finny on why he is the only person who is aware of the "stuffed shirts'" (107) plot to suppress happiness, Finny emotionally bursts out it is because he has "suffered" (108). Apparently, Finny has visualized this hoax to shield himself from the disadvantages of his disability, such as enlisting. Nevertheless, Finny quickly accepts the truth of the war after seeing Leper in a mentally disturbed state of mind. The image of what the war did to someone who used to be close to him shook him out of his dream world and spurred his emotional...

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