A Seperate Peace: Characters Struggle To Gain Epiphany Essay, Research Paper
Gene Forrester, in A Separate Peace by John Knowles, struggles to gain epiphany through his close relationship with his roommate Phineas at the Devon School. Phineas represents the innocence that only a child possesses, for no winners or losers, allies or enemies, or right or wrong exists to Phineas. Because of his injured leg, Phineas blinds himself to the war around him. Phineas feels that if he cannot serve in the war, than the war does not exist. Phineas tells himself and others that the war does not exist in an effort to make his injury easier for him to accept. One can love another unconditionally, but there is no guarantee the love will be returned. However, Phineas naively believes, ?When you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love? (103). At the beach, Phineas, not afraid to share his feelings, admits to Gene that he is his best friend; for the child within him destroys the barriers of fear that come with opening oneself to another. Phineas stubbornly rejects the idea of Gene?s purposely jouncing the limb until the trial. The trial forces Phineas to accept his best friend?s evil intentions; thus, Phineas? innocence suddenly falls apart. Ironically, Phineas falls down the steps to his death.
Gene gradually learns that he is capable of evil. At first, Gene admits a ?blind impulse? causes him to jounce the limb; however, he cannot admit his evil tendencies. Gene?s epiphany begins when he later confesses to Phineas that he purposely jounced the limb. During the mock trial, Gene realizes exactly what he has done when Leper reenacts the incident in the tree. Gene reaches the next step of gaining his epiphany when Phineas dies, for Gene realizes the significance of Phineas in his life. Gene says, ?I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral, and you do not cry in that case? (186). Gene saw Phineas as part of him, as though they were the same person. Gene?s true epiphany occurs fifteen years later when he returns to Devon. Not until then does Gene look back and accept his evil actions and the severe consequences those actions caused. The tree, revisited by Gene, becomes dry and weary, for it has changed in the past fifteen years. Gene changes as well, for he has found his true epiphany.
Phineas lives his life as a child, and Gene lives his life as an adult. Phineas dies before he realizes the enemy in his life; therefore, he never gets to see many of the negative universal truths about mankind. Gene displays the maturity of an adult when he says, ?My war ended before I ever put on a uniform; I was on active duty all the time at school; I killed my enemy there? (196). Because of a jealous hate, Phineas is Gene?s enemy. Gene usually dresses in the standard, mature school attire. When Gene tries to wear Phineas? pink shirt, he does not feel comfortable. The shirt represents adolescence, and Gene cannot wear the shirt because he is an adult. All of the boys at Devon need to go to war to find themselves, for they need a purpose in life. On the contrary, Gene does not need to go to war because he has already found himself. Gene is not a boy; he is an adult. Becoming an adult comes with many self-realizations, and true epiphany occurs only when one looks back at their actions and accepts the consequences that their actions have caused.