Notes for a Seprate Peace

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Reflection
is central to the novel; the novel is spawned by a visit back to Gene's old school, and the work hinges upon a dialogue between the past and the present, and the relation of a man to his much younger self. Gene confesses that he is still stuck in the time of World War II; his memory still has a tremendous hold on him, as evidenced by his ability to recall the goings on of fifteen years' past with such detail. The presence of memory, and its role over time, is a major theme of this book; when Gene reiterates his thoughts on the past and on the lasting impact of the events he is describing, he only increases the importance of this theme within the novel. Reality vs. memory

Gene often shows how memory can be tinged by feelings that change how reality is perceived and recalled. This is especially evident when he looks for a tree by the river that has a special meaning to him. "It had loomed in my memory as a huge lone spike dominating the riverbank, forbidding as an artillery piece, high as a beanstalk," he says, his similes characterizing the tree as a great, forbidding mass (5). Yet, when he sees it, he finds it "absolutely smaller, shrunken with age," and nothing like the great giant he had remembered. Perhaps the tree had actually shrunk since Gene's time; but this is a more apt example how things can be obscured or emphasized in the memory via emotional factors, and a good introduction of the theme of memory versus reality. Gene remembers his old campus in one way, yet when he visits, he finds it quite different; this happens often, as things can seem less imposing or important when revisited, yet be so huge in one's memory. Rebellion vs. conformity

Gene and Finny are a great example of this theme in action; Gene is naturally a rule-abiding person, and Finny has an absolute disregard for rules. This difference is also represented in the differences between the summer session and the fall session. Finny himself embodies both of those, as he is...
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