Essay about Gene's Coming of Age in A Separate Peace

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Gene's Coming of Age in A Separate Peace

The novel, A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, is the coming of age story of Gene Forrester. This novel is a flashback to the year 1943, when Gene is attending Devon School during his senior year and the summer before it. "Gene's youth and inexperience make him ill-equipped to deal with situations that require maturity" (Overview: A Separate Peace 2). However, Gene is a follower of Finny and therefore gains experiences that provoke his development into adulthood. Some of these experiences include: breaking Finny's leg, training for the 1944 Olympics, and killing Finny. Through these three experiences Gene is forced to grow out of his childish-self and become a man.
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Gene becomes more disciplined and athletically inclined. He is undertaking circumstances that he knows will never come true, the 1944 Olympics, yet making the best of them to please his best friend. Gene is learning to do things although he does not want to do and that have no purpose. This is a difficult task for an immature child; however, through Gene's ability to train for the inexistent Olympics, shows that he is growing up. He looks at his training as if he were preparing for the war. Accepting that he must go to war is also another sign of maturity brought on by the training for the Olympics with Finny. Through his preparation for the Olympics, Gene's coming of age becomes more and more evident.

Finny's death causes the greatest maturity growth in Gene's character. After Finny dies, he realized how his own hatred caused the death of his best friend. "He came to understand Finny's innocence and purity which causes Gene to see flaws within himself and forces him to grow up" (Alton 1). Being able to admit your own flaws is critical in maturing. When Gene finally sees his impact of immature behavior, he realizes how much he needs to mature. Even though Finny is physically gone, his spirit remains with Gene and essentially makes him the adult that he grows up to be. Finny's death is a crucial part of Gene's coming of age. When Finny dies, Gene's immature behaviors also die. Because Gene's hatred was gone, he entered war as a man.