In John Knowles book A Separate Peace he communicates how the war in him was taking its toll on him. He uses the characters in a complicated plot to show the destructive forces of war. The characters, Gene and Finny, are the opposing forces in a struggle between the reality of war (World War II) and a separate peace. A peace away from the real war and the awful things that come from it. Through their relationship, which is a struggle on both sides, Knowles establishes the reality of war through a relationship.
Gene Forrestor is established as the force of reality. This idea is established clearly in a speech Gene gives as the narrator of the story.
“Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him. It is the moment when his emotions achieve their most powerful sway over him, and afterward when you say to this person ” the world today” or “life” or “reality” he will assume that you mean this moment, even if it is fifty years past. The world, through his unleashed emotions, imprinted itself upon him and he carries the stamp of that passing moment forever.” (Knowles, 32)
This statement explains that Gene must have something that is his “stamp”. This stamp defines an individual standing up for something he believes in. The next paragraph shows that this is true where Gene continues, “For me, this moment-four years is a moment in history-war the war. The war was and is reality for m...
e. I still live and think in its atmosphere.” (Knowles, 32) Later in the same paragraph he goes on to say:
“America is not, never has been, and never will be what the songs and poems call it, a land of plenty. Nylon, meat, gasoline, and steel are rare. There are too many jobs and not enough workers. Money is very easy to earn but rather hard to spend, because there isn’t very much to buy. The war will always be fought very far away from America and it will never end. Nothing in America stands still for very long, including the people, who are always either leaving or on leave.” (Knowles, 32)
This is what Gene stands for in the book A Separate Peace. Gene appears to understand the reality of war and how it affects people. Throughout the entire story Gene is used to bring the destructive reality of war into everyday life at Devon High School where there is an attempt to create and exist in a separate peace.
There is a reality known by Gene that is headed by Gene’s best friend, Finny. Finny has his own reality that he creates and exists in is the separate peace spoken of earlier.
Finny who is a very athletic person, begins to create this separate peace with games. Because Finny can’t face the reality of the real war, these games are a representation of the war. Finny makes the rules so that he can exist in these games as an invincible force. The first game Finny invents is “The Super Suicide of the Summer Session.” This game consists of jumping of the limb of
a tree into the river by Devon. As the game is invented, both Finny and Gene, agree to start it by being the first ones to jump out of the tree into a river. One time Finny allows Gene to jump out first. This is the start of a separate peace.
“We were standing on a limb, I a little farther out than Finny. I turned to say something else, some stalling remark, something to delay even a few seconds more, and then I realized that in turning I had begun to lose my balance There was a moment of total, impersonal panic, and then Finny’s hand shot out and grabbed my arm, and with my balance restored, the panic immediately disappeared.” (Knowles, 24)
In this instance Finny saves Gene from falling out of Finny’s world and into Gene’s reality. The idea of Gene understanding that this is Finny’s world comes in chapter three.
“Yes, he had practically saved my life. He had also practically lost it for me. I wouldn’t of been on that d#%* limb except for him. I wouldn’t have turned around and so lost my balance, if he hadn’t been there. I didn’t need to fell any tremendous rush of gratitude toward Phineas.”(Knowles, 25)
This is when Gene knows he was out of his reality and into Finny’s world, and Finny’s world could have taken his life. This game goes on to progress into a more warlike atmosphere. Gene goes on to explain how he and Finny signed up trainees on the spot and how they initiated them every night. This is like the basic training and initiating of real soldiers in a war.
Finny also creates another game that substitutes for the real war: Blitzball. It is known that this game is related to the war because a boy present during the invention of the game, Bobby Zane says, “Let’s make it have something to do with war.” (Knowles, 29) Finny likes this idea and goes with it. Finny goes on to make up all kind of rules. After all of the parts of the games were invented Gene realizes, “That he unconsciously invented a game which brought his own athletic gifts to their highest pitch.” (Knowles, 31)
“The odds were tremendously against the ball carrier, so that Phineas was driven to exceed himself practically every day when he carried the ball. To escape the wolf pack which all the other players became he created reverses and deceptions and acts of sheer mass hypnotism which were so extraordinary that they surprised even him.” (Knowles, 31)
Blitzball was made up by Finny so that he could be in control. This is like Finny’s world of a separate peace. Finny’s reality of war is much like the games he invents. Finny’s reality comes into making up his own rules while eluding the real rules. In doing so no one ever really holds Finny responsible to make him abide by the real rules. One example is when Finny wears a pink shirt which he explains is an emblem for the bombing of Central Europe (Knowles, 18). He explains that because he has no flag to
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