A Separate Peace: Contrasting Gene and Phineas and the Struggle for Po

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  • Topic: Life, John Knowles, A Separate Peace
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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A Separate Peace: Contrasting Gene and Phineas and the Struggle for Power

Julie Gibson

John Knowles' A Separate Peace depicts many examples of how power is used. In A Separate Peace, two opposing characters struggle for their own separate might. Gene Forrester, the reserved narrator, is weakened by his struggle for power. While, Phineas was inspired by his own power within. The novel conveys how peace can weaken or inspire during a mental war.

Phineas, a natural rebel, is known as the best athlete in school. For example, he and three others come to look at a tree, which is considered among the Upper Middler students at Devon an impossibility. Phineas demonstrates his supreme power by stating that the tree is, indeed, a "cinch" (p. 6). No Upper Middler had dared to do the unthinkable, vaulting off a tree to land in a shallow river. Phineas is the first to do this. This single statement tells us much about him. He doesn't mind taking risks, enjoys intimidating others, and over exaggerates. It tells that he is very strong and powerful to be able to do what others can not do. The denotation of power is "the capability of achieving something." Not only is Phineas achieving something from jumping off this tree, he is achieving power by gaining the respect of fellow classmates. Phineas' spontaneity inspires many others to be like himself and jump off the tree. Another example of Phineas' power is his character establishing scene of disrespect to the school by wearing his pink shirt and the Devon School tie as his belt. We here, again, see him as the spontaneous individual who "can get away with anything" (p.18). Phineas' nature inspired Mr. Patch-Withers, a teacher at Devon. Phineas has an eloquence about himself, allowing him to get by with so much. Phineas "might have rather enjoyed the punishment if it was done in some kind of novel and known way" (p.20). Even with negative actions, Phineas can enjoy a situation if it presents something new and...
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