“It was only long after that I recognized sarcasm as the protest of people who are weak” (22). This quote reflects the idea that people often use humor and sarcasm to camouflage their true feelings. In A Separate Peace, John Knowles explores the cause of this unnecessary yet widely prevalent type of behavior. People use sarcasm to avoid criticism of their real emotions. By avoiding criticism, they also avoid the possibility of negative reactions.
In A Separate Peace, Knowles creates Gene’s experience of a “sarcastic summer” (7) as way of explaining why Gene uses sarcasm to avoid showing his actual feelings. When Gene is in the Butt Room, he actively uses sarcasm to keep from telling the rest of the Devon boys what actually happened when Finny fell from the tree. Gene does this because he is afraid of dealing with the thought that he could contain this sort of hatred. He wants to keep his secret that he subconciously wanted to jounce Finny out of the tree, not that it was an accident. Gene knows that Finny is pure and innocent, so Gene doesn’t want to admit that he himself could be capable of such darkness. Gene uses the sarcasm as a way to protect himself from the accusations of being the cause of Finny’s fall and injury. This use of sarcasm as protection is an attempt for Gene to avoid dealing with his inner war. Gene does not want to deal with his inner war because it forces him to realize that he is indeed a hateful person. He doesn’t want to accept that he has such negative feelings. By using sarcasm, Gene avoids dealing with his true emotions.
In the novel as well as in life, sarcasm is used as a protection device and a cover-up for the wrongdoings we commit. During a conversation, a person might make a sarcastic comment after another person has expressed their own view on a certain idea. The person who uses sarcasm possibly has the differing opinion and therefore does not want to be criticized by their fellow being. The sarcastic person attempts to...
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