A Separate Peace Literary Criticism

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A Separate Peace Literary Criticism

By | July 2013
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Competition in A Separate Peace

In John Knowles’s novel A Separate Peace, Knowles describes a life-changing sequence of events, as seen by Gene Forrester, which takes place at Devon Boarding School. Gene constantly finds himself struggling to find the truth about his relationship with Finny. Peter Wolfe states that the novel, “cries to be read in the context of original sin,” and Novels for Students references that, “the real struggle is fought in the hearts of the characters, not on the battlefield.” Both the sin and struggle come together when Gene places himself in a competition with Finny, which can only end with one definite winner. Many different factors contribute to the theme of competition including: the physical abilities of each boy, the internal characteristics of each boy, and Gene’s jealousy and envy of Finny. Gene sees his competition with Finny as merely physical, between academics and sports. It is made clear that each character excels in one particular field, Finny in sports and Gene in academics. All sports seem to come naturally to Finny, and Wolfe describes his ability in sports in that, “His [Finny’s] athletic prowess stems not from brawn but his superb coordination and vitality.” (Wolfe 138). Although Gene still did well in sports, he was nowhere near Finny’s athletic level. Gene was, however, far more advanced in academics, and was far more applied academically than Finny. He had set his goals high, ultimately aiming to be the class valedictorian- a goal that seemed easily achievable, with his only distraction being Finny. Finny was not at all proficient in academics, maintaining a “D” average at best, never feeling the need to try. Gene sensed a competition developing between Finny and he, and felt the need to be even with Finny. In a way, Gene had achieved- he was competent in academics and decent in sports while Finny was spectacular in athletics and ineffectual in school. Gene believed that Finny not only wanted to be...

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