Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Separate Peace by John Knowles


A Separate Peace by John Knowles begins with Gene Forrester, the protagonist, going back to his old school, Devon School, after fifteen years. he reflects on his years there and his old friend Finny, who was an outgoing, athletic, talkative and mischievous boy. Unlike Gene, Finny excelled at sports nautrally, beating the school swimming record the in his first attempt. The boys later form their own secret society for people who have jumped off a nearby tree into the river. The first time they jump, Gene is shamed into it by Finny, and the second time Gene hesitates and Finny pushed him, saving his life. Even though Finny and Gene are good friends, Gene resents him throught most of the novel for being a better person and having a sure identity. Since Finny is so good at sports, Gene assumes that Finny is jealous of Gene's academic success and suspects that Finny is out to distract him and ruin his grades. He later realizes that there is no rivalry between them, but this only makes him more envious of Finny because he believes that Finny is a better person than he is. He says “I was not of the same quality as he" (Knowles 51). On their third jump, Gene's knees bend and wiggle the branch and Finny falls off and breaks his leg. Gene feels that he is guilty for the accident and tries to admit it but Finny does not believe him. World War II has started by now and one of their friends, Leper Lepellier, enlists right away. Gene goes to visit him and it turns out Leper has gone slightly mad and paranoid. When Leper and Gene return to school , Finny has another falls down the stairs and breaks his leg. The boys discuss again the first accident while Finny is in the infirmary, and Finny asks Gene if it was "just a blind impulse" (Knowles 162) up in the tree, he wants to believe that it is not part of some deeper hatred. This novel is told by an unreliable narrator Gene, and so not everything is stated plainly. you must read between the lines a lot in the book and that is what makes it one of my favorites. The relationship between Finny and Gene is very complex and only fully understood by someone who has experienced it before.
Questions:
1. Gene is jealous of Finny most of the novel.Have you ever felt angry at someone out of jealousy, not out of hatred. How does this feeling cause conflicts within you and how does it usually play out in your relationships?
2. Finny becomes angry that he can no longer go to war. Put yourself in his position, as a young boy during the 40s and everyone around you is enlisting. Would you be upset or releived to not be able to go to war?

9 comments:

Brad S 11-12 said...

1. I believe that feeling jealousy is a very useless emotion. If you're wasting your time and life trying to become better just for the sake of being better than someone else, you're not really living life. Everyone is very unique in their own aspects and should be happy with who they are and not try to conform to others traits. The very famous quote, "If everyone was the same, the world would be a dull place," enforces my statement.
One might argue the fact that "If you're jealous, that will give you the drive to become better." I take those as 'fool's words.' As i already stated, why be the same as everybody else? You should do what you have a passion for not for somebody else, but for yourself. If you're only holding yourself back from your true potentials, how will you make any difference in the world? I believe that it is fine competing with others, but only for the sake of aiding yourself, not trying to be better than others. That is just a childish thought.
However, like i said, everyone is different, and some do not see the wisdom in the words i have spoken, and compete and compete. The competing actually might turn to fighting and feeling angry that you can not match others in their abilities. They might be better than you at some things, maybe everything you can think of too, but they are not you, and they will never think or act like you. In final, they might trump you in everything you do, but you might have an amazing breakthrough idea that will actually benefit someone somewhere.
It usually destroys relationships until the two people can mature a bit and not take everything as aggressively, and work things out to where they once stood.
I'll admit, i used to feel the same. No one is born perfect, and no one is born with all of the knowledge we have learned today. But we will still make mistakes, many more, but if we don't, we would never learn from them and become more great.

Kaitlyn S. 13-14 said...

1. I'm sure everyone has felt jealous at some point. I have felt jealous a few times but not to an extreme extent. More or less I would just think, "I wish that was me," and that would be the end of it. I don't let it interfere with my relationships with other people. My one friend was jealous of me though and always tried to get the better version of what I had and it just got very old. She took it to a place where it didn't need to go. Needless to say, I'm no longer friends with her. She could never be happy for anything I did because of her jealousy.

I agree and then disagree at the same time about what Brad said. I agree to the point where you should be mature about it and if you're going to use it for competition, you should do it to better yourself, not just to keep up with someone else. Where I disagree is saying that it's a useless emotion. I believe every emotion has a purpose and we feel them for a reason. Who knows, maybe certain emotions come back from the beginnings of man. I may be looking into this too much. Jealousy is a basic emotion and it may be a sin but I think it has a purpose, even if it's just to improve yourself. All emotions are important but it comes down to if you're able to control them. If you completely let your emotions take over you, that's when they are a 'sin'.

2. It's hard to imagine myself as a boy in the 40s. I think I would be too cowardly to go to war so I would be relieved. I wouldn't want people to know that I was that scared because as a man, people expect you to be brave so I would pretend to be disappointed about not being able to go.

LibbyS5/6 said...

2. Personally, I would be thrilled not to have to go to war. Even if I were a boy and living in the 40s I still dont think I would have any drive to go to some strange counrty and crawl in the dirt with a possibility of being killed. I get nervous when i play hide and seek now, so honestly, I don't think a change in gender or time period would really effect my decision too much.

CorinneS5/6 said...

Libby I think that if put in that situation most people would be afraid as well but may not admit it. Many people, including some in the novel, are too caught up in the attitudes of the people around them and do not realize the gravity of the commitment they are making. The boys in this novel jump into the army without thinking and it turns out to change them into men who they do not want to be. I think they should have thought their commitment through before going off to war by choice.

CorinneS5/6 said...

I agree with Brads comment that jealousy doe not healp you become a better person but I believe that that is because if you are jealous you are not happy with yourself and your own life. To be happy you must be happy and content with your self. There is no way to become a happy person if you are longing for the lives of others. Being happy is appreciating yourself and the things you have done, which you can not do if you are jealous.

McKenzieM 11-12 said...

I would be so relieved if I didnt have to go to war but I think I would still feel self conscious about what other people would say about it.

Kara K. 5/6 said...

1) I have felt jealous of someone which led to anger within myself. It causes many internal conflicts. Your emotions go back and forth and play games on you. Usually jealousy leads to a bad relationships with anyone. For example, being jealous of a friend could potentially lead to you pushing them out of your life so they stop making you feel lesser and lesser of a person.
2)I would be angry too. It was what everyone was doing at the time. Most people like to go with the flow and join in with what the crowd is doing. Also, going to war is a huge pride thing. It allows you to give back to your country what they have given to you. I feel that fighting for our country is what many people should do.

Kyle P. 13-14 said...

2. I think as a kid during that time i would have been angry because all of the propaganda would make me feel like it was my duty to go off to war but once i was an adult i would have felt relieved i didnt go

Mrs. Sherwood said...

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