Metaphors In “A Separate Peace”
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When reading a book it is very important to read between the lines, to catch the hidden meanings and metaphors that lie within its pages. ” A Separate Peace ” is no exception as it is filled with metaphors which give the novel a concealed meaning and teach the reader about many things including the immense impact of World War II on people of the era. This essay will identify and explore some of them in order to further understand John Knowles’ novel and the message he wanted to get across. Finny’s Clothes, The Winter Carnival, Blitzball, and The Tree are all adequate examples of metaphors in this tale as they all have double meanings that bring the reader into a whole new world, one filled with mystery and wonder. Metaphors play an amazingly important role in this novel as they transform it from a plain story into a complex one, where simple things represent a greater, intricate reality.
Throughout the novel Gene looks up to and idolizes Phineas, his control, his athletic ability and overall his character. Gene needs Finny, and when Finny goes away due to his injury Gene finds himself grasping at pieces of Finny’s integrity to keep himself going through the difficult days. Then one day this leads to Gene putting on Finny’s clothes and for a brief while achieving his stable piece of mind, the harmony that occupies Phineas, and most important of all escape from his own turmoil.
” I had no idea why this gave me such intense relief, but it seemed, standing there in Finny’s triumphant shirt, that I would never stumble through the confusions of my own character again. ” ( Knowles 54 ) Finny’s clothes represent a temporary escape from confusion and pain of the greater situation, therefore they depict the state of the students at Devon who are temporarily shielded from the evil of the war. Like the boys’ situation however, reality cannot be eluded forever and Gene is brought back to it after a good night’s sleep.
” and it was only on waking up that this illusion was gone, and I was confronted with myself, and what I had done to Finny. ” ( Knowles 54 ) Although not permanently, but Gene achieves peace of mind for a brief while and tricks himself into believing that for that amount of time everything is alright. Just as he and his classmates exist in a world where the war is something that only appears in headlines of newspapers and bulletins on the radio, nothing too real or threatening.
Amidst strict rules and harsh expectations of Devon High, there comes a time to relax and enjoy the winter weather. Organized by Phineas himself, the Winter Carnival represents another form of escape from reality into a world of jest, friendly competition and teenage horseplay.
” it was this liberation we had torn from the gray encroachments of 1943, the escape we had concocted, this afternoon of momentary, illusory, special and separate peace. ” ( Knowles 128 ) A separate peace is spoken of, identifying the way the boys are able to disconnect themselves from the hoarse call of the real world, and to once again temporarily live life for its simple pleasures. Once again the bubble of bliss is burst when Gene receives a telegram which informs him that his friend has escaped from the army and needs his help, and he is snapped back to the reality formed around him.
Blitzball, a game invented by Finny because of his disgust with the school’s athletic program is another very important metaphor within this novel. Where the rules are simple ” once in possession of the ball one must either outrun the other players or pass the ball to another player while avoiding being tackled, Blitzball is a reflection of every student’s personal conflict against the world. The game mirrors the fact that in the real world a person can only rely on himself and is completely alone.
” “There aren’t any teams in blitzball,’ he yelled somewhat irritably, “we’re all enemies. Knock him down!’ ” ( Knowles 30 ) As in life, Finny handles all these difficulties with great ease and quickly becomes the best player while others, such as Leper refuse to play and as in reality get left behind. The game is an excellent example of how different people deal with certain situations differently and is a metaphor for the way the students will uniquely handle the hard times that lay ahead.
The book’s biggest metaphor is the tree by the Devon river from which the boys jumped during the summer of 1942. As Gene, the main character returns to Devon he recalls how the tree was the centre of all his fear while he was still was in high school and how it was the origin of the horror that took place during that time. Now the tree not only seems smaller but also weaker to Gene.
” This was the tree, and it seemed to me standing there to resemble those men, the giants of your childhood, whom you encounter years later and find that they are not merely smaller in relation to your growth, but that they are absolutely smaller, shrunken by age. ” ( Knowles 6 ) The tree, therefore clearly shows the changes that everything and everyone has gone through since the war and the incidents revolving around it.
Metaphors play an amazingly important role in this novel as they transform it from a plain story into a complex one, where simple things represent a greater, intricate reality. Gene dressing up in Finny’s clothes, The winter Carnival, Finny’s invented game ” blitzball “, and the big tree all demonstrate the powerful use of metaphors in this novel. Because of them the plot is enriched, the story made more interesting, but most important the reader can better understand the importance of certain events in the lives of the students. These examples clearly show us the many battles which exist within the characters themselves and in the world around them.