A Separate Peace is a novel by John Knowles that is about prep school experiences during World War II. I enjoyed reading about Genes journey towards maturity and the adult world. This book takes place in Devon School, New Hampshire during a summer session when Gene Forrester was sixteen years old.
One day Gene and Finny, his friend and roommate, went to a large tree by the river. Finny suggested that they try and jump from the tree into the river below. This jump was usually for older boys. But they both made the jump successfully, and Finny formed the Summer Suicide Society, which is dedicated to members being initiated by jumping from the tree to the river. Each time, Gene and Finny must go first, but Gene always has a fear of jumping.
Finny always was considered the best athlete in school, and Gene tried to counterbalance by being the best student. After a while of joining Finnys activities, Gene thinks that Finny is intentionally trying to make him fail out of school. He starts to dislike Finny and his activities, and Gene starts interrupting his schoolwork to jump from the tree more and more often. On one occasion, he thoughtlessly jounces the limb and Finny falls and breaks his leg.
Finnys leg is so shattered that he will not be able to play sports again. Gene is scared that Finny will tell that he intentionally pushed him off the tree. After his first visit to the infirmary, Gene realizes that Finny trusts Gene completely and would never accuse Gene. After summer vacation was over, Gene guilty conscience decides to confess to Finny that he had deliberately pushed him out of the tree. Finny refuses to believe his confession, and demands that Gene leave. Autumn session had started and Gene did not try to go out for any sports.
Students volunteered to do jobs left from the workers that were sent off to war. Many students enlisted into the army, and Gene was going to do the same until one day he returns to his room and Finny was there. Finny confronts Gene and tells him that he is going to coach him for the 1944 Olympics. Gene explains that sports are not important while the war is going on. Back to Finnys fall, some boys from the dormitory come to get Gene and Finny to take them to the assembly hall.
They begin asking questions about Finnys broken leg, Finny refuses to answer the questions and bursts out of the room and falls down the stairs and breaks the same leg again. Gene tries to visit Finny in the infirmary but Finny wants nothing to do with him. The following day, Finny wants to know why he pushed him out of the tree. Gene says that it was a blind impulse.
That same day, while the doctor is resetting Finnys leg, some marrow gets into his bloodstream and Finny dies instantly. Gene does not cry about his death, and feels that he died with Finny and that he shouldnt cry over ones own death. Gene later comes to the conclusion that war never meant anything to him, that he had fought his own war and had killed his enemy at school. The major conflict in the story is between Gene and Finny. Gene is jealous of Finny because is the best athlete at school and tries to compete with that by being the best student.
Eventually, Genes jealousy causes him to jounce the limb while Finny jumps. Gene then becomes aware of his inner self and learns of his true feelings. He realizes that Finny has no hatred or jealously towards him. This is a sign of pride within Gene as he watches the good athlete, Finny fall out of the tree. The truth that will break the strong bond between Finny and Gene.
The truth in which will lead to another tragic fall of Finny. Genes journey begins the moment he pushes Finny from the tree and the process continues until he visits the tree fifteen years later. Throughout this time, Gene must become self-aware, face reality and the future, confront his problems, as well as forgive and accept the person that he is. With the jouncing of the limb, Gene realizes his problems and the true person he is inside. Fifteen years later, when revisiting the tree, he finally accepts and forgives himself. This journey is a long and painful one.
At the end of this long and winding road filled with ditches, difficulties and problems, Gene emerges a mature adult. By accepting as well as forgiving the person that he is, Gene enables himself to move on and join the adult world. Genes maturation is a painful and difficult process that reveals a darker side of Gene that he doesnt necessarily wish to see. However painful, Gene is made a better person during his maturation through his suffering.