Good Vs. Evil, Wars In "A Separate Peace" By John Knowles

1177 words - 5 pages

John Knowles novel, A Separate Peace, portrays wars on three distinct levels.These levels could be described as outer, inner, and world. There is a very gooddefinition of these wars at the closing of the novel which shows us the levels:'I could never agree with either of them. It would have been comfortable, but Icould not believe it. Because it seemed clear that wars were not made by generationsand their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant inthe human heart.' (page 193)This passage shows that wars go on around the world, all the time people are battling anever-ending fight. Not necessarily battles like World War II or even a common streetfight or family feud, but battles with mind and emotion that everyone must deal with.One such battle is that in which Gene deals with throughout the book, the battleswith Finny. We learn as the story begins that Gene and Finny are best friends. They goalmost everywhere together and they even share a room at their school. We enter thestory at what is called a 'summer session' which could be described as today's equivalentof summer school. But, as the story unfolds, we are forced to ask ourselves, are theyfriends as the appear to be at the start of the novel or are they mortal enemies as Genebegins to hint with this quote at the point Gene thinks Finny is finally going to 'get away'with something he did. 'This time he wasn't going to get away with it. I could feelmyself becoming unexpectedly excited at that.'(page 20) This shows us that even thoughthey are friends, Gene feels that Finny is too perfect and he needs to see a sign that he ishuman, that he is not the super-popular 'benevolent' kid everyone else thinks he is. 'Hehad gotten away with everything. I felt a sudden stab of disappointment.'(page 21)Finny, like usual had finally gotten himself out of a seemingly 'sure catch.'Later on in the novel, Gene's inner torment finally gets the best of him.'Holding firmly to the trunk, I took a step toward him, and then my knees bentand I jounced the limb. Finny, his balance gone, swung his head around to look at mefor and instant with extreme interest, and then he tumbled sideways, broke through thelittle branches below and hit the bank with a sickening, unnatural thud. It was the firstclumsy physical action I had ever seen him make. With unthinking sureness I moved outon the limb and jumped into the river, every trace of my fear gone.'(page 52)It is this out of character action by Gene which starts the second type of war in the novel,Gene's 'inner war.' At this point, all of Gene's feelings of hatred and despise for Finnyare all manifested in that single action. At the point when Gene says, 'I ... jumped intothe river, every trace of my fear gone,' it shows us that when Finny fell to the groundand did something that wouldn't make him popular with the other kids, most of Gene'semotions calmed down and there was a great weight lifted from him. Although at themoment everything...

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