Innocence versus Maturity
A Separate Peace by John Knowles concerns itself about a young adult named Gene who decides to visit his old school Devon years after the war and recollects his memories of his friend, Phineas. Most of the story is a flashback about the hardships Gene and Phineas had to face growing up in high school during a war. During this flashback, Gene grows through the phase where he must let go of his childhood and mature to adulthood. Throughout the book, Phineas symbolizes childhood and innocence, revealing the main theme of the book: innocence versus maturity.
Gene’s journey through his years at Devon shows how he matures and gains a bigger understanding of the world around him. At the beginning of the book, both Gene and Phineas were childish at the beginning of the book. For example, Phineas would wear pink clothing and a school tie as a belt to a headmaster’s gathering. “In his haste that morning Finny had not unexpected used a tie for a belt. But this morning the tie at hand had been the Devon School tie” (20). This shows a level of disrespect of self-image and school-image that usually rash, young children have. Phineas even believes that the war is just a scam made up by adults to get a profit. There’s the bad, there’s the good; just pure black and white. He was even able to rationalize this illogical belief to Gene, and Gene easily gives in. Just like how a child sticks to her favorite blanket or comforting teddy bear to protect her from the nasty in life, Phineas is Gene’s way of clinging on to a more immature view to explain life simply.
As Gene begins to mature through his years at Devon, he loses Phineas for a while as Phineas recovers from his leg injury. This opens the door to Gene as he sees a new view point on life. He has a sense of guilt that he was the one who trounced Phineas out of the tree, but cannot explain his actions. This new sense of guilt make question if he is truly evil or still innocent. It raises the...
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