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Original Essays | July 24, 2014

Jessica Valenti: IMG Full Frontal Feminism Revisited



It is arguably the worst and best time to be a feminist. In the years since I first wrote Full Frontal Feminism, we've seen a huge cultural shift in... Continue »
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A Separate Peace by John Knowles
A Separate Peace

raskx050, May 15, 2011

The novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles is organized in chronological order in order to tell the story correctly. It is broken up into 13 chapters. Starting in the beginning of the novel, it is apparent that the setup of this novel is the recollection of Gene Forrester of previous events that occurred 15 years previously. Because of the differences between the narration, being sometimes in the present tense or in the flashback, it is sometimes hard to differ between the two tenses. The reason that the author uses this is because he wanted to show the relationship between the more elder Gene, and the younger Gene in order to compare both of them together. The overall plot of the novel is the journey of a young boy’s life (Gene Forrester) at the Devon School, and especially of his envy of his roommate Finny who is strikingly good at sports. While climbing on a tree, Gene purposely shakes the branch causing Finny to fall and shatter his leg preventing him from ever playing sports again. Gene tries to explain what really happened, that this accident was indeed not an accident, and Finny fails to believe it. After encountering many situations that involve the current World War II, Finny goes into surgery. The surgery ends up failing and costing Finny’s life, but after the remorse that Gene feels, he feels he will always be a part of Finny. The character of Gene plays a huge role in the novel overall, by displaying impeccably one of the central themes. “It was quite a compliment to me, as a matter of fact, to have such a person choose me for his best friend” (29), what this quote reveals is one of the sides of Gene’s personality, the side that absolutely adores his “best friend” Finny. But the idea behind this statement is that it has a sort of falsity to it. There is proof that Gene does not truly feel this way about Finny because of his athletic abilities and likeability. “I couldn't help envying him that a little, which was perfectly normal. There was no harm in envying even your best friend a little" (27), this quote demonstrates the more obvious side to Gene, revealing his true inner thoughts of Finny. More obviously described in the novel is the setting.
The setting of this novel takes place at the school of the Devon School in New Hampshire. The story initially takes place in the year 1957, but all of the flashbacks and actual events take place in 1942, when the boys actually attended the school. The environment described is almost like a cliché high school. They have many cliques who ridicule characters like Leper. I believe that the symbol in the setting is the tree surrounded by the river; it has much significant meaning because it showcases the major downfall in the novel, and what creates the conflict. The author uses the setting to bring out the negativity in the characters. It is at the school where all of the hatred and envy is ultimately created. I believe that the mood of the setting is also very grim and dark because of what occurs at the school, and because of during the time frame that this novel is set in. I believe that the setting is very key to the overall importance and meaning of the novel, because without the school and tree none of these events would have occurred, or specifically in the sequence that they did. "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” (8), what this quote is discussing is the relationship between Finny and Gene, and how the tree created this relationship, therefore the setting plays a major importance. Also the quote above that described Leper speaks of the war at the time which had a big impact on all of the boys at the school because they wanted to enlist. But few of them ultimately did. All of the characters and symbols in the novel display the theme of the novel.
The novel A Separate Peace exposes the potential dangers of succumbing to the wrath of one of the seven deadly sins, envy. A part of the novel explains Gene’s sadness and grief that he endures because of the consequences that he faced because of Gene’s envy. And this demonstrates that if one expresses envy so openly, there are bound to be personal consequences, as in the conscience of the mind could potentially be ruined. Another theme that is apparent in this novel is that people cannot always make assumptions about their friends no matter how close they are. As the reader knows, Finny just assumes that every one of his friends is the same person as him, and that clearly is not accurate because of what Gene does to him. Overall the importance of this novel teaches both of these themes impeccably.
Overall, I think that this book is a very successful piece of art. I believe this because I think that it teaches many great morals about being insecure. It is stated within the novel that the main character of the book is not satisfied with his personal traits, and strives to damage the traits of another. Following these actions Gene is caused great suffering, especially following the death of Gene, which is his fault. The artistic goals that were accomplished within the novel were effectively teaching this lesson. I believe that this book will continue to be taught in schools, because it has relativity to today’s society. So often, teens are disappointed with appearance, or their attributes and will do anything to make up for these, and this novel ultimately teaches the greater lesson of being content with one self’s personality and physical traits.
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