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A Separate Peace Essay Research Paper One

A Separate Peace Essay, Research Paper One of the most revered and utterly enigmatic topics present within humanity is the evolution of humankind itself. Collectively contrasting

A Separate Peace Essay, Research Paper

One of the most revered and utterly enigmatic topics present within

humanity is the evolution of humankind itself. Collectively contrasting

both the origins of man physically and the very beginning of complex

thought processes has been an incredible task, which is currently

undetermined. The exact methods of the mind and of human character are

both delicate and completely beyond true understanding. The only ways

we as a race retain the ability to even attempt to comprehend such

processes is through experimentation and elaboration via written text

and visual arts. The process of human mental evolution, the evolution

of character, is well demonstrated within the novel A Separate Peace

authored by John Knowles. Knowles creates such an atmosphere as to

carry you as the reader into the minds of the characters. The

characters, in a like manner, attempt to delve into their own

understanding and determine the whole of an immense complexity of

emotions shared between themselves and the other characters. The use of

this type of perception is furthered by the narrator’s transformation

from the very beginning to the very end, and the stories entire basis

upon a flashback. The story itself takes place years before the

narrator, named Gene, begins to speak of the incidents of which it is

composed. This maturation of the young Gene mentioned in the story and

the older adult Gene we meet at the very beginning allows us a sense of

how Gene as a character evolved. Everybody has their own methods and

their own “style” in a manner of speaking, of evolving both physically

and mentally. Once you as the reader understand a character’s method of

evolution, it becomes much easier to understand that c! haracter’s

thinking pattern and any actions he or she may take further into the

story. Before I dive headfirst into the presence of character, I want

to mention the incredible use of descriptive and artistic wording to

create a rather fantastic sense of setting. The ability of Knowles to

create an overwhelming sense of being and imagination allows for the

story itself to be played out in real time, visually within the

reader’s mind. Collated with the immense diversity of readers’

imaginations, the story and the characters themselves always appear in

the reader’s own isolated vision of what is being represented on the

page. A very unique and rather brilliant aspect of novels that is

thoroughly and well presented in A Separate Peace. At the very start

of the story, as aforementioned, Gene as an adult is revisiting the

Devon School for boys, where he spent most of his childhood growing up.

The revision of his surroundings overwhelms Gene and he begins to

envision the incidents of the past, a time when he was in attendance at

the school and his experiences with the remaining characters. There is

no real main character in my view however, though the post is quite

clearly shared between Gene and Phineas. Phineas, nicknamed Finny, was

the so-called “jock” at Devon. However, while he was well known and

respected for his athletic ability, he would not participate in the

legitimate sports programs nor would he acknowledge his rather elevated

abilities at all. This is where one of the first of many conflicts in

the story enters, why would he show such a disrespect for himself? What

could lead him to hold such a gratuitous aspect of modesty? These very

questions were constantly, as can be interpreted from the reading,

flowing throughout Gene’s mind. It existed to such an extent that Gene

would eventually execute a rather selfish and questionably deliberate

action. This would give way to the beginning of Gene’s evolution as

well as the diminishing of Finny’s state of mind, his evolution. Gene

as a youth was in every aspect a complete contrast to his unlikely

friend, Finny. Further proving the old phrase “opposites attract.” Gene

was consistently receiving high grades and accolades for his elevated

intellect, however it was not nearly as consistent or well received as

Finny’s athleticism. While it was never directly stated by Knowles, as

far as can be interpreted Gene could not perform well in any type of

sport nor could he accept the fact that Finny could. Gene was

withholding a great deal of resentment and clear jealousy towards his

friend, and in effect would not accept that fact either. He could not

understand his emotions to the extent that he was not even aware, or

just unable to acknowledge them in the first place. The process of

evolution is set in motion and the characters’ mental states begin to

alter to be completely dissimilar from ere. The most memorable

incident from the story, which can also be discerned as the turning

point in the story, was the occurrence in the large oak tree. Gene and

Finny had brought themselves to grow accustomed to facing fear and

pushing it aside. They had on occasion leaped from a large branch upon

the tree, falling into a lake below. A sort of rite of passage for

Gene, he had begun to displace his fear a little more with every leap

from the high perch. Evolving from his old ways into a new and more

courageous, even spontaneous individual, completely contrary to his

previous and more projected self. While upon the branch, Gene and

Finny conversed little. Finny was preparing to jump when Gene abruptly

shook the branch with a sudden impelling of his legs. Unable to keep

balance, Finny glances at Gene before falling to the earth below, not

reaching the soft water of the lake. The water which would have

prevented the after effects of the fall, which were in effect a complex

mix of irony and tragedy as Finny, the ultimate symbol of courage and

athleticism was left shaken and with a broken leg. Thus retarding Finny

from any of his previously enjoyed notoriety or pleasure from being

“number one” among his colleagues. Immediately following the incident,

the adult Gene as narrator reflects upon the scenery in and around the

area of the accident. Without any apparent guilt or sense of

responsibility, Gene awes at the landscape before himself leaping from

the tree, into the water. Fearless and irresponsible, Gene has begun to

mold into what I would call a “real” human being. An! individual

composed of true character and idealism, while still retaining the

ability to be cruel and reckless, whether it is intentional or not.

Now that Gene has subconsciously fulfilled his own mental necessity to

dispose his friend, which he seems to view in some way as an opposing

force, he has inadvertently begun Finny’s own stage of evolution. Finny

sadly realized as a result of his fall that he would never be able to

play sports as he previously did and there remained a chance he may not

retain the ability to run ever again. All this in place, in addition to

his actual presence at the accident site, Finny quite frankly refused

to assemble the overwhelming facts leaving Gene as the sole culprit in

a jealous crime. Gene himself was forced to rethink his state of mind

at the time, running the incident over and over in his head until he

could no longer dispute that he had in fact, intentionally jounced the

limb causing the crippling of his friend. The boy next door evolved

just enough to employ the ability to dispassionately inflict true

injury and eventual mental detriment upon his fellow human being. In

this ! case, Phineas his best friend, or so he had previously

assumed. Finny, the victim in the situation, was not as accepting or

willing to realize the actual pieces composing the incident and all of

the factors leading up to it. Even when confronted by a confession,

Gene’s face to face confession, he would not acknowledge the fact that

his best friend would or could intentionally murder his only true

abilities and destroy his only hopes for the future. Finny simply

denied himself the easy explanation that it “was Gene.” He wanted, most

likely subconsciously, to have something more representative, something

that held within it some higher sense of complexity and/or reasoning.

Finny, always being the brave and in some distinct way more than human

character, had fallen and broken with a sudden and simple movement of a

branch. The “super-human” character represented by Finny both in the

eyes of Gene and distantly by Finny himself, had been in a sense

fractured by the intentions of a mere mortal, a simpler and less

foreboding character; Gene. In this manner, Finny’s evolution was not

so much a growth in mental or physical aspirations nor was it a gradual

process slowly manipulating itself over time. Finny’s evolution as a

human was something of an inverse operation. Gene gradually moved

forward, growing as a person and always evolving, moving upward along

some imaginary stairway of character and what it means to be truly

human. Finny in contrast, was thrust from what he and those around him

saw as the highest form of character and of accomplishment, deep into

the broken and shattered wasteland of lesser humanity. He was

decelerated in his trip forward and left bitter and unresponsive to his

real feelings. Pushing them deeper and farther into his mind in a

feeble attempt to forget, or even displace the emotions as

inconsequential. The consequences of Finny’s denial would catch up

with him however and ultimately lead to what most people fear. During a

mock trial later in the story, Finny was presented with evidence by

supporting character Brinker. In quick summation, Brinker was a

confused and rather jealous character in his own right. Throughout the

story there are several incidents to suggest Brinker was a manipulator

and was attempting to replace Gene as Finny’s best friend. Childish and

an instigator, Brinker sets up the mock trial in an attempt to sway

Finny into finally realizing that Gene hurt him purposely and needed to

be excommunicated as a result. Gene was still shaken and somewhat

confused by his earlier actions, however he had begun to realize that

he had changed and was constantly and consistently changing still,

whether he wanted to or not. He was evolving and he began to come to

terms with his newfound state of mind. Finny in contrast still could

not accept the blatant facts and refused to participate in the trial,

leaving only moments after it had begun. In an abstract form of

rebellion against his own emotions Finny walked out of the hall where

the trail had been proceeding. As the doors closed behind him the

remaining characters were silent as Finny’s footsteps slowly faded into

a sweet silence of pride and ignorance on Finny’s part. Abruptly and

violently however, the silence was shattered by the muffled but

distinct sound of something heavy hitting the floor. The characters ran

to the scene and found Finny lying at the bottom of the stairs. Tragedy

had again struck the very soul of Finny as his leg had br! oken once

more. The ultimate irony had restated its presence and such effects.

As a result of his second fall, a piece of bone marrow from Phineas’

leg had separated and traveled through his bloodstream finally reaching

his heart where it rested within an artery. The marrow clogged the

artery and Finny died on the operating table. Tragedy had become a

recurring aspect of Knowles’ vision. Tragedy and the struggle of human

characters with both their own psychological imperfections and the

effects that those impurities have upon the interaction and/or nature

of the other characters in that particular story. Knowles has

brilliantly combined the complexity of human emotions with the very

fabric of character evolution. He has proven that evolution is not only

dependent upon a character and his or her actions, yet is constituted

of all of the character’s emotions in unison with the interplay between

the character and their environment. The way that all factors combined

ultimately reflects upon that character’s evolution as well as the

evolution of fellow c! haracters as effects.

essay written by steve sawyer

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