A Separate Peace: The Price of Jealousy
On the surface, A Separate Peace, written by John Knowles in 1959, is a tale of two boys and the events that take place between them one school year during World War Two. Behind the simple storyline, however, lies a deeply woven web of symbols, themes, and lessons that are all of great significance and relevance to our lives today. Perhaps one of the most important concepts we can learn from this novel is how we, as a species, create our own enemies due to our jealousy and insecurity. Knowles’ story shows how humans tend to satisfy the need to have someone to compete with by sometimes choosing to dislike the people who deserve it the least.
Phineas and Gene are best friends, but also, although Finny never realizes it, worst enemies. Gene’s insecurity is the cause for nearly everything bad that happens throughout the course of the story. Although almost anyone could be jealous of Finny, with his natural athletic ability, popularity, fearlessness, and knack of getting away with anything, Gene’s jealousy was much deeper and much more sinister than a slight twinge of envy. His insecurity made him so jealous of Finny that he desperately wanted to be him, but also hated him at the same time. His jealousy drove him to choose Finny as his enemy and rival and made him dream up bad things about Finny to try and convince himself that he wasn’t as perfect as he seemed to be. Gene believes, “Finny had deliberately set out to wreck Deal 2
my studies” (45). Gene’s insecurity was the cause of Finny’s accident and Finny’s death, and as a result, Gene’s sense of peace. He no longer lived in anyone’s shadow, and was able to make peace with himself. At the conclusion of the novel, Gene states, “I never killed anyone and I never developed an intense hatred for the enemy. Because my war ended before I ever put on a uniform; I was on active duty all my time at school; I killed by enemy there” (196). The basic concept of...
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