A Seperate Peace Essay, Research Paper
Gene s Enemies
Adam and Eve had a perfect Garden of Eden, until Eve ate the apple and contaminated the garden. In being tricked by the snake, Eve betrayed God s word. Mankind has often betrayed others because of the darkness in their heart. In A Separate Peace, John Knowles uses Phineas as a sacrificial lamb to portray Gene s savage side and demonstrate that peace can never be achieved at a worldwide level until man accepts the darkness in his own heart.
Gene believes that Finny and he hate each other, until he realizes Finny s pureness, which Gene can not stand. At first, Gene believes that Finny wants to exceed him, and that the two are rivals. Everyone at Devon likes Finny. The teachers adore him, the students look up to him, the athletes aspire to be like him. Finny has no enemies. Gene, however, sees through Finny s cover and thinks they hate each other. He hates Finny for beating A. Hopkins swimming record, and for making him jump from the tree, and for being better than Gene. When Finny takes Gene to the beach, Finny tells Gene that they are best pals. Gene does not respond to Finny s sincere gesture because he thinks Finny wants to sabotage him. Gene realizes that he and Finny are even after all, even in enmity. The deadly rivalry was on both sides after all (46). Gene has no proof of Finny s hatred, but Gene needs to find a way to be even with Finny. Once he decides they are even, he must now surpass Finny, so he jounces the limb. Gene s hatred takes over, only now he realizes that the hatred only comes from one side. Finny is pure. He never hates Gene; he loves Gene like he loves everyone else. Gene creates a monster, jealous and hateful, like himself. Gene can t stand Finny’s pureness and Finny turns into the sacrificial lamb who becomes the target of Gene s aggression. Finny absorbs Gene s hate and sin, and continues to love Gene unconditionally. The name Phineas dates back to biblical times. The character Phinehas from the Bible never acts from any private jealousy or sense of personal wrong. His interest lies in the honor of God and the safety of God s people. Phineas, a popular name among Puritans in the 17th century, perfectly fits Finny s pureness. In killing Finny, Gene destroys something beautiful. Gene is not of the same quality as he [Phineas] (51). Even after everything Gene has done, Finny still forgives him before dying because Gene does not know what he did. Finny takes Gene s burden with him and removes Gene s sin, as Jesus did for mankind when he was crucified on the cross. Finny and Gene show man s inner capacity to hate and demonstrate how mankind always ruins what they can t understand.
Gene must confront the darkness in his heart or he will always be his own worst enemy. When Gene jounces the limb and causes Finny s fall, he brings out the darkness in his heart and capacity to hate. By committing such a savage act, Gene loses his innocence, as well as his hatred. Although Gene appears to be a defensive, sarcastic young man, with an inner hatred not even he knew he possesses. Finny, of course, refuses to accuse Gene despite Gene s attempt to confess to Finny at his home. After Finny shows sincere and unconditional love, Gene still hurts him. Gene s last name, Forrester, hints a deeper meaning about the forest. Gene longs to run to the uninhabited primeval forests of the north, where he can live in primordial peace. Gene realizes that There is no such grove, but the morning I returned to Devon I imagined it might be just over the visible horizon, or the horizon after that (144). Gene wants to escape his hate, and always avoids the truth. Gene s burden will continue to rest on Finny s shoulders as long as Finny refuses to tell. Gene attempts to confront Finny about the incident and even tries to take the blame, but Finny refuses to listen. Finny suspects the truth, but can t let his best pal end up being a Leper, outcast from society. When questioned in the Butt Room, Gene covers up his tracks with sarcasm. Gene protects his secret from himself, as well as others. He, like most people, doesn t want to know the truth. Gene symbolizes mankind. He shows that everyone has a capacity to hate. Eventually Gene admits to himself what he has done and realizes that, there was always something deadly lurking in anything I wanted, anything I loved. And if it wasn t then, as for example with Phineas, then I put it there myself (92). Gene realizes the darkness in his heart and he is scared by what he has uncovered. Furthermore, Gene can t seem to accept Finny s pureness because Gene doesn t have it himself. He tries to set up a defense to hide the truth. However, Gene will never move on with his life until the burden is taken off Finny s shoulders and set aside, which can only be done by confronting his sin.
Knowles demonstrates the truth about life by using Finny, Gene, Leper, and the setting as biblical symbols. Leper, Gene, and Finny demonstrate how people must evolve or perish . Finny symbolizes the sacrificial lamb. A Christ figure, Phineas represents the goodness in man. He throws himself down the stairs sacrificing himself for Gene, as Jesus did for man. Gene represents mankind and man s capacity to hate. He shows how man can destroy, as in war, and that man must remove hate in order to achieve a separate peace. Finny sacrifices himself so Gene doesn t end up like Leper, the outcast of society. Leper, a naturalist, represents the fragile, innocent people who hide from the horrors of life until one day they meet it, the horrors face to face, just as (they) had always feared, and so give up the struggle completely (196). Leper comes to one realization; people must evolve or perish. Gene, unlike Finny and Leper, can evolve. When Gene sees dawn for the first time at the beach with Finny, he sees himself. Gene, like dawn was not as (he) had expected, but as a strange gray thing (41). Surprised at what he finds, Gene s witnessing of the sunrise that morning represents his progression; at first gray , and confused, then with midnight green, for his envy of Phineas, then gray-white when he sees himself, and finally pure white after he has confronts himself and becomes Phineas-filled . After watching the sunrise, Gene goes into the water. He treads water and simply ducks, and the waves concentrated power hurtled harmlessly overhead I did not stop to think that one wave is inevitably followed by another even larger and more powerful (101), but cannot tread water forever. Water also plays a role in Gene s baptism in the Nagaumsett. He appropriately falls into the turbid river after a fight with Quakenbush. Finny falls into the pure, clean Devon, demonstrating the Good vs. Evil theme, which shows the war within a war. Devon represents the Garden of Eden, which is contaminated by Gene, mankind, to show again how man destroys what he can t understand. Gene listens to the snake and betrays Phineas in the tree, as Eve and Judas both did.
Gene survives by learning from Finny and evolving from his experiences. Gene s survival was dependent on Finny s death. When Gene jounces the limb he shatters Finny s leg, as well as his heart. Finny knows that Gene purposely caused his fall, but can t let his best pal be exposed. Finny will do anything to save Gene from Leprosy. Finny realizes that Gene just didn t know what he had done, and forgives his sin, which saves Gene. Without forgiveness, Gene would still be living in fear and hate, buried by his burden. Gene learns tremendously from his experiences. All his enemies were imagined, there was no need for Maginot Lines to protect himself from an enemy that didn t exist. After Finny s funeral Gene becomes Phineas-filled and his war is over before it ever begins. Gene realizes, I was ready for the war, now that I no longer had any hatred to contribute to it. My fury was gone Phineas had absorbed it and taken it with him, and I was rid of it forever (195). Gene fights his war with himself, not Finny. Although Gene alone was responsible for his death, Finny forgives him and makes Gene ready for the war, now that his hatred has left. Gene returns to Devon to confront his problems and cleanse himself. Finny s pink shirt can t make Gene s problems go away, Gene must confront them himself. He needs to move on with his life, after living in fear for 15 years. Upon Gene s return, he notices several differences. The tree seems to have withered with age and shrunken in size, though it looms enormous in his memory. Gene finds the school looking oddly new. It seems to be covered in varnish. Gene has covered what happened at Devon in varnish, but it remains preserved and clear. Upon his exploration of the school, Gene is Changed, I headed back through the mud. Anybody could see that it was time to come in out of the rain (6). He thought that if he shut the door on his past, it would go away. Instead the stale air rushes out at him when he reopens the door and causes him to deal with his feelings all at once, drenching him. Gene has gone through another rite of passage, on top of his graduation, baptism, jumping from the tree, and Finny s funeral. By letting out the stale air and understanding his inner self, Gene reaches his separate peace. As a result, Gene becomes a sadder, but wiser, man.
Gene s experiences throughout the novel, along with Phineas death, contribute to his survival and progression as a person. Gene realizes the only enemy he ever had was himself, and becomes pure and Phineas-filled after he confronts and conquers himself. Knowles compares a New England prep school to the Garden of Eden to show man s flawed nature and that man always ruins what he can not understand.