A Separate Peace Identity Analysis

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“Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.” * A Separate Peace, written by John Knowles, features two boys (Finny and Gene) who attend a prep school during World War II. In the novel, Gene provides a perfect example of a teenager’s search for identity.

In the beginning of the book, Gene begins admiring Finny. “He got away with everything because of the extraordinary kind of person he was.” (Knowles, 21) However, that admiration turned into envy, but that’s normal for best friends, right? The accident, in chapter four, was most likely caused by Gene’s built-up malice. Finny was an amazing athlete, and could get away with anything because of his charisma. Gene, on the other hand, was not good at sports,
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“But when I looked in the mirror it was no remote aristocrat I had become, no character out of daydreams. I was Phineas, Phineas to the life. I even had his humorous expression in my face, his sharp, optimistic awareness…but it seemed, standing there in Finny’s triumphant shirt, that I would never stumble through the confusions of my own character again.” (Knowles, 54) In previous chapters, Gene would compare himself to Finny, but until chapter five, it wasn’t evident that he actually wanted to be Finny. After Finny’s accident, Gene, in a way, became Finny. This is due to Phineas wanting to live and play sports through Gene, being that it was now physically impossible to do so himself.

When Phineas died, it was as if Gene had lost his identity. Gene had gotten so used to Finny living through him that he had a hard time letting go. “I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral, and you could not cry in that case.” (Knowles, 186) This quote shows that Gene still thinks of Finny as a part of him, when in fact, he is a separate peace. In the last chapter of the novel Gene describes how he enlisted in the army, could this have been to search for a new identity, as he was lost without

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