A Separate Peace Theme

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In the novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles, friendship is a major theme. This idea is expressed through the relationship between two Gene and Finny. As narrator, Gene does not always correctly understand or trust his friend, and this becomes an important part of the plot in displaying the joys and tragedies that can accompany a friendship. Friendship as a theme is used throughout the book in weaving the plot and giving it a nice twist. In the story, Gene and Finny share a complex friendship. Gene does not quite know what to think or believe of Finny; so, he has a mixture of emotions toward Finny at different times, ranging from admiration and pleasure, to annoyance and doubt. At points, Gene feels envious of Finny's effortless skill and athletic ability. Also, Gene feels pushed and pressured by Finny to do things that his better instinct tells him not to do. For example, Finny persuades Gene to jump from the tree: "What was I doing up here anyway? Why did I let Finny talk me into stupid things like this"?(9). Gene is confused by his contradictory feelings toward Finny. With a friendship as intricate as Gene and Finny"s, it is relatively simple for them to misunderstand one another. In A Separate Peace, there are numerous instances when this occurs, often having undesirable consequences: "Finny had deliberately set out to wreck my studies . . . The way I believed that you’re-my-best-friend blabber!"(45). At this point, Gene misinterprets Finny's genuine behavior and actions, taking them to mean that Gene and Finny were competitors for glory. This misunderstanding, combined with other doubts and pressures on the friendship, leads Gene to do something which he is forever to regret. Finny, on the other hand, does not understand that Gene's academic ability does not just come to him naturally and as easily as his athletic talent does. He does not realize that Gene has to practice and study hard to succeed. Finally, another of Gene's misjudgments of Finny occurs...
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