Gene's Development in John Knowles' A Separate Peace Essay

1128 Words5 Pages
Gene's Development in John Knowles' A Separate Peace

Throughout life, there is always a person who one strives to beat, be better than or rise above. Little does each of them know that in the end the two actually make each other stronger. In John Knowles' novel, A Separate Peace (1959), he addresses just this. The novel, told from Gene Forrester's point of view, is based on a friendship and rivalry between him and his friend, Finny, during World War II. The two sixteen year olds attend Devon School, a private all boys' school, in New Hampshire. Finny, a very athletically talented youngster, continually but unintentionally causes Gene to feel inferior and insignificant, producing inevitable anger and jealousy inside Gene. During their
…show more content…
Little sorrow and sadness is expressed around school, even in Gene; no one talks about what happened but everyone remembers, especially Gene. Throughout the novel, John Knowles' strong characterization of Finny results in a more developed and wiser Gene; in the end, Finny actually makes Gene a better person.

One instance where Knowles uses characterization in order to achieve his purpose is when Gene develops the feeling that Finny is trying to sabotage his chance of being "head of the class, valedictorian" (41). Gene thinks since Finny is the best at sports, he also desires the need to be the best scholastically, although he is "a very poor student" (44). This is Gene's explanation for assuming that Finny "deliberately set out to wreck my [Gene's] studies" (43). Gene, enraged by Finny's actions, figures the motive behind Finny trying to keep him so busy is to throw him off track with his schoolwork. Although this incident caused much jealousy and rivalry in Gene, it actually benefited him tremendously. Gene reveals, " 'I became quite a student after that. . . . Now I became not just good but exceptional' " (44).

Finny's strong and solid character is again evident the night of the tree jumping in which he fell and broke his leg. Prior to the occurrence, Gene explodes when Finny automatically assumes Gene will be present at the Suicide Society tree "leap"(46). Finny's thinking that studies can just be abandoned at anytime infuriates Gene. Once Gene
Get Access