A Separate Peace Essay - Characterization

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As Gene Forrester reflects back on his life at the Devon School in New Hampshire, he realizes that all of the events, from the first time he meets Phineas to the funeral he attends for his dear friend, make him who he is. Gene faces numerous challenges throughout his years at the boarding school, including making new friends, getting good grades, enlisting in World War II, and finally having to experience the death of Phineas. In John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, it is only after dealing with the enemy inside that Gene finally evolves from the insecure teenage boy at the beginning of the novel to a confident and independent man at its end. Gene begins his time at the Devon School unaware of who he really is, instead choosing to spend time with Phineas, or “Finny” as he is typically known. Embarking on his years at Devin School as a fearful young Southern boy, Gene loses himself during his adventures with Finny. Gene’s outlook on life changes when his friendship with Finny blossoms. Lacking confidence in himself, Gene tries to find out where he belongs, and his friendship with Finny becomes unhealthy. In addition to the friendship, Gene feels an unspoken rivalry between him and Finny. However, Gene takes offense when Finny disagrees with the existence of a rivalry. Still feeling the tension, Gene decides to jump on the branch the boys are standing on, destabilizing it and causing Finny to fall down and break his leg. In the instant after Finny falls, the rivalry fades away and is quickly replaced by guilt. After the accident, Gene realizes that he will “never stumble through the confusions of [his] own character again” (54). Gene’s identity not only defines him but also Finny, because the two grow closer after the incident. Since Finny cannot be the star athlete he used to be, Finny tells Gene to work hard to become better at athletics, and this is the start of Gene’s codependency. Every time Finny convinces Gene to become a better athlete, "[Gene loses] part of...
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