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A Separate Peace: Friendly Rivalry

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  • Pages: 2
  • Word count: 377
  • Category: Peace War

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A Separate Peace, a fiction novel written by John Knowles, tells the story of a young man coming-of-age at an all-boys boarding school during World War II. The main character, Gene, struggles with who he is while his best friend, Phineas, is comfortable with himself. Gene creates a “friendly rivalry” in his mind between himself and Phineas, which does not actually exist. As the war becomes reality, so does Gene’s insecurities and ressntment toward Phineas. Gene’s actions eventually lead to the death of his best friend. Throughout Gene’s life at the Devon school, he learns four significant lessons. Gene first learns to never pretend to be something you are not, when the real you is just as good. Gene feels he is not as good as Finny. In the beginning of the novel, a situation is introduced where Gene claims to be 5’9 bu Finny proves that he is 5’8. The first of Phineas’ commandments appears when he says, “Never say you are 5’9 when you are really 5’8” (Knowles35). Gene learns to never say you are somtheng when you aren’t.

Next, Gene learns to not act on a feeling, when all you have are assumptions as evidence. Gene realizes the competition between himself and Finny doesn’t exist. Finny tells Gene that he is his best pal, making himself entirely vulnerable to Gene. In a surge of blind fury, Gene pushes Phineas out of an extremely high tree, whch ruins his chances of enlisying in the war and becoming a proffesional athlete. Phineas refuses to believe Gene hurt him purposely, saying, “Never accuse a friend of a crime if you only have a feeling he did it” (Knowles66). Gene also learns that the atmosphere may change but life goes on even after something traumatic happens that changes the rest of your life. When Gene returns to school he feels the sereniy of the summer session is gone. In chapel, he feels the sermon is focused on continuing as if nothing has happened. Gene remembers Finny, not as in denial or crippled but, how he used to be, “Not of the tree and pain, but of one of favorite tricks, Phineas in exaltation” (Knowles75). Through this Gene learns that life continues with or without you.

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