Literature helps to understand who we are and how we behave. In The Educated Imagination, Canadian literary critic and theorist Northrop Frye, explores the impact of literature in our lives, and the important role it plays in the essential development of the human imagination. In particular, Frye shows literary conventions, “…a certain typical and socially accepted way of writing.” (Chapter 2, “The Singing School,” page 19), take an innate and repetitive path. A similar use of conventions is found today in popular media. All aspects of human behavior are explored through conventions such as the self-identity convention and the conventional boy meets girl beginning. We crave the neatness of conventions to detach us from our naturally messier lives, provide a framework of wider beliefs and possibilities, and foster a universal sense of connection.
One convention Frye explores in chapter two of The Educated Imagination is known as the point of self-knowledge convention, which exposes characters to the fundamental understanding of one’s identity. Throughout John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, protagonist Gene Forrester endures an intellectual odyssey that reflects the archetypal acquisition of his identity. Gene’s journey begins with the departure from a familiar world when he begins his time at The Devon School. With a minimal sense of self and confidence, Gene becomes jealous of schoolmate Finny who appears to be everything he is not, which leads him to jounce the limb of the sacred tree causing his best friend’s fall, and in turn, both of their destructions. The difficulties Gene experiences with identity throughout adolescence result in his evolution from a figure downtrodden by his personal limitations to one in possession of considerable unrealized potential. Frye calls this “the point of self-knowledge, at which a character finds something out about himself as a result of some crucial experience” (Chapter 2, “The Singing School,” page...
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