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A Separate Peace Theme

  • Date Submitted: 10/11/2011 04:42 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 66.7 
  • Words: 452
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A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, is a story about two friends named Gene and Phineas who attend a school in New England during World War II. Both boys remain inseparable until their opposing personality traits cause their friendship to fail. Phineas, or “Finny” who displays confidence, acts as a foil to Gene, who struggles with his insecurity and jealousy toward his friend. Phineas and Gene's friendship conflicts reveal the theme that envy destroys relationships and can lead to negative actions.
Jealousy affects their friendship for the first time when Gene begins to think that Phineas' goal is to sabotage his academics. Gene's insecurity causes him to feel threatened by his friend and believe that, “Finny had deliberately set out to wreak my studies.” (43) The truth reveals that Phineas had no plans to hurt his friend, but just wanted to have an fun time. Gene's competitive nature leads him to acquire negative thoughts toward his friend that will eventually ruin their relationship.
In lieu of these bad thoughts, Gene soon takes action and ends up causing Phineas' leg to break. While the boys perch on a tree branch, Phineas loses his balance and falls. Gene later admits that, “I deliberately jounced the limb so you would fall off.” (58) Phineas' good nature causes him to refuse to believe his friend. Gene remains wracked with guilt, but feels relieved that his 'competition' was now unable to play sports. Eventually complications from surgery cause Phineas to die.
To cope with the 'murder' of his friend, Gene begins to see Phineas as no longer a friend, but merely a separate piece of himself. “I decided to put on his clothes,” (51) said Gene, after the accident. In Gene's mind, the boy's identities merged. That causes Gene to believe in a sense that, “I was Phineas.” (51) Another example occurred at Phineas' funeral when Gene thinks, “I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral.” (176) Since Finny is now gone, Gene can finally have what he...

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