Overtime Themes In John Knowles A Separate Peace

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Although John Knowles’s novel, A Separate Peace, is set in the midst of WWII, there is a lack of the typical violence and combat associated with the war. However, Knowles uses wartime themes to depict the personal battles the protagonist is forced to face. The most prevalent of the wartimes themes present in the main characters of the novel are feelings of hostility and enmity. This demonstrates that the war, although not physically occurring with the United States, is still taking a toll on Americans. The conflict between the protagonist, Gene, and his friend, Phineas, consists of the battle each boy at the school must come to face as he grows up in a world engulfed in the war. The novel depicts these conflicts through Gene’s internal battle …show more content…
Gene explains, “Finny had deliberately set out to wreck my studies. That explained blitzball, that explained the nightly meetings of the Super Suicide Society, that explained that I share all his diversions. The way I believed that you’re-my-best-friend blabber!” (53). Gene has discovered that his best friend is not a friend at all because in his mind, Finny is the enemy. The idea that Finny is the enemy is rooted in Gene’s belief that Phineas is simply superior to him. He sees all the accomplishments that Phineas achieves and his jealousy distorts the friendship the boys once possessed. The lack of understanding within the friendship between Gene and Phineas is the ultimate cause of this war that has manifested between them. The false reality of the enmity within the friendship that Gene creates is similar to the false reality that Finny will later create in regard to the war. Dealing with these false realities are the battles that Gene and Phineas are really fighting. These emotions of hostility and enmity created by false realities are results of the warfare that actively taking a toll on American citizens in WWII. The false realities created by Gene will become the real battlefield Gene and Phineas will have to fight …show more content…
Finny does not believe that the war exists. He does not believe in enemies nor does he believe in the war. These ideas ultimately stem from the idea that Phineas does not think that people lose in life. Gene explains, “Finny never permitted himself to realize that when you won, they lost. That would have destroyed the perfect beauty which was the sport” (35). For Finny, the world was just one of his sporting events where no one loses. He shies away when anyone presents him with real world examples of people living lives that do not conform, to his ideal way of life. When Leper Lepellier enlists, the boys begin to joke about Leper in the ski troops. When this happens, Phineas stopped going wherever the boys would talk about Leper. Gene notes, “Phineas took no part in it, and since little else was talked about in the Butt Room, he stopped going there…” (127). Phineas’s defense mechanism for when someone tries to harm his fabricated reality is to delve even deeper into that reality. The war that is being fought overseas comes with emotional baggage. Hostility and enmity become a prevalent feeling experienced in the nations affected by a global war. Consequently, these intense emotions are often blocked out by many. Phineas tries to block out the side effects of war and live in the peace that Devon would ideally provide. While that peace is not achieved, throughout the novel, Phineas is desperately trying to

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