Character Traits in a Separate Peace

Topics: United States, A Separate Peace, Remainder Pages: 5 (463 words) Published: October 8, 1999

the book A Separate Peace by John Knowles, one of the

main themes is the effects

of realism, idealism, and isolationism on

Brinker, Phineas, and Gene. Though

not everyone can be described

using one of these approaches to life, the approaches


conform to these characters to create one realist, one idealist,

and one

isolationist; thereby providing the foundation of the novel.


realist is Brinker. Brinker's realism takes on a very morbid

quality after

Gene decides not to enlist with him, do to Phineas's

return to Devon. Brinker

still sees everything the way it is, but

begins to think that the way it is,

is bad. On page 122, he is quoted

as saying, "Frankly, I just don't see anything

to celebrate, winter or

spring or anything else." Brinker will scrutinize

any incident until he

finds a dark side to it, because, in his mind, at least

one side of

everything is a dark side. Already we have the footing for our



(Finny) is the idealist. Like Brinker, Finny's approach

experiences a grim

metamorphoses. Before his accident, Finny sees

the world as a glorious playing

field and life as a never ending game.

After his accident; however, Finny

begins to view the world through

the eyes of a paranoid old man who is always

seeing something

covert in everything. On page 106, Finny even goes as far

as to ask

Gene, "Do you really think that the United States of America is

in a

state of war with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan?" This outlook


a mental facade that only succeeds in setting Finny up for a harder



there is the isolationist, Gene. Gene's approach is

austere from the beginning.

It is Gene who generates the dark

change in the others. Gene looks for danger

in everything he is

emotionally close to. When he finds danger, he ostracizes


from whatever it is that is posing a threat to him. If he can not


danger, as with Finny, he creates it. On page 45 he strives so hard


create danger in Finny that he falsely concludes that, "Finny had


set out to wreck my studies." This creates the story's

main conflict and

brings about Gene's spontaneous act of pure evil

that haunts him and the reader

throughout the remainder of the book.

These characters and these approaches

to life fit together like

the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to create an intriguing

heart, wrenching

tragedy about friendship, war, and loss. These pieces did

not just

happen to fall into place. The author knew exactly what he was


when he assigned these traits to these characters. He was

building the destruction

of a separate peace.
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