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Essay/Term paper: A separate peace

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Papers

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One of the most revered and utterly enigmatic topics present within
humanity is the evolution of humankind itself. Collectively contrasting
both the origins of man physically and the very beginning of complex
thought processes has been an incredible task, which is currently
undetermined. The exact methods of the mind and of human character are
both delicate and completely beyond true understanding. The only ways
we as a race retain the ability to even attempt to comprehend such
processes is through experimentation and elaboration via written text
and visual arts. The process of human mental evolution, the evolution
of character, is well demonstrated within the novel A Separate Peace
authored by John Knowles. Knowles creates such an atmosphere as to
carry you as the reader into the minds of the characters. The
characters, in a like manner, attempt to delve into their own
understanding and determine the whole of an immense complexity of
emotions shared between themselves and the other characters. The use of
this type of perception is furthered by the narrator's transformation
from the very beginning to the very end, and the stories entire basis
upon a flashback. The story itself takes place years before the
narrator, named Gene, begins to speak of the incidents of which it is
composed. This maturation of the young Gene mentioned in the story and
the older adult Gene we meet at the very beginning allows us a sense of
how Gene as a character evolved. Everybody has their own methods and
their own "style" in a manner of speaking, of evolving both physically
and mentally. Once you as the reader understand a character's method of
evolution, it becomes much easier to understand that c! haracter's
thinking pattern and any actions he or she may take further into the
story. Before I dive headfirst into the presence of character, I want
to mention the incredible use of descriptive and artistic wording to
create a rather fantastic sense of setting. The ability of Knowles to
create an overwhelming sense of being and imagination allows for the
story itself to be played out in real time, visually within the
reader's mind. Collated with the immense diversity of readers'
imaginations, the story and the characters themselves always appear in
the reader's own isolated vision of what is being represented on the
page. A very unique and rather brilliant aspect of novels that is
thoroughly and well presented in A Separate Peace. At the very start
of the story, as aforementioned, Gene as an adult is revisiting the
Devon School for boys, where he spent most of his childhood growing up.
The revision of his surroundings overwhelms Gene and he begins to
envision the incidents of the past, a time when he was in attendance at
the school and his experiences with the remaining characters. There is
no real main character in my view however, though the post is quite
clearly shared between Gene and Phineas. Phineas, nicknamed Finny, was
the so-called "jock" at Devon. However, while he was well known and
respected for his athletic ability, he would not participate in the
legitimate sports programs nor would he acknowledge his rather elevated
abilities at all. This is where one of the first of many conflicts in
the story enters, why would he show such a disrespect for himself? What
could lead him to hold such a gratuitous aspect of modesty? These very
questions were constantly, as can be interpreted from the reading,
flowing throughout Gene's mind. It existed to such an extent that Gene
would eventually execute a rather selfish and questionably deliberate
action. This would give way to the beginning of Gene's evolution as
well as the diminishing of Finny's state of mind, his evolution. Gene
as a youth was in every aspect a complete contrast to his unlikely
friend, Finny. Further proving the old phrase "opposites attract." Gene
was consistently receiving high grades and accolades for his elevated
intellect, however it was not nearly as consistent or well received as
Finny's athleticism. While it was never directly stated by Knowles, as
far as can be interpreted Gene could not perform well in any type of
sport nor could he accept the fact that Finny could. Gene was
withholding a great deal of resentment and clear jealousy towards his
friend, and in effect would not accept that fact either. He could not
understand his emotions to the extent that he was not even aware, or
just unable to acknowledge them in the first place. The process of
evolution is set in motion and the characters' mental states begin to
alter to be completely dissimilar from ere. The most memorable
incident from the story, which can also be discerned as the turning
point in the story, was the occurrence in the large oak tree. Gene and
Finny had brought themselves to grow accustomed to facing fear and
pushing it aside. They had on occasion leaped from a large branch upon
the tree, falling into a lake below. A sort of rite of passage for
Gene, he had begun to displace his fear a little more with every leap
from the high perch. Evolving from his old ways into a new and more
courageous, even spontaneous individual, completely contrary to his
previous and more projected self. While upon the branch, Gene and
Finny conversed little. Finny was preparing to jump when Gene abruptly
shook the branch with a sudden impelling of his legs. Unable to keep
balance, Finny glances at Gene before falling to the earth below, not
reaching the soft water of the lake. The water which would have
prevented the after effects of the fall, which were in effect a complex
mix of irony and tragedy as Finny, the ultimate symbol of courage and
athleticism was left shaken and with a broken leg. Thus retarding Finny
from any of his previously enjoyed notoriety or pleasure from being
"number one" among his colleagues. Immediately following the incident,
the adult Gene as narrator reflects upon the scenery in and around the
area of the accident. Without any apparent guilt or sense of
responsibility, Gene awes at the landscape before himself leaping from
the tree, into the water. Fearless and irresponsible, Gene has begun to
mold into what I would call a "real" human being. An! individual
composed of true character and idealism, while still retaining the
ability to be cruel and reckless, whether it is intentional or not.
Now that Gene has subconsciously fulfilled his own mental necessity to
dispose his friend, which he seems to view in some way as an opposing
force, he has inadvertently begun Finny's own stage of evolution. Finny
sadly realized as a result of his fall that he would never be able to
play sports as he previously did and there remained a chance he may not
retain the ability to run ever again. All this in place, in addition to
his actual presence at the accident site, Finny quite frankly refused
to assemble the overwhelming facts leaving Gene as the sole culprit in
a jealous crime. Gene himself was forced to rethink his state of mind
at the time, running the incident over and over in his head until he
could no longer dispute that he had in fact, intentionally jounced the
limb causing the crippling of his friend. The boy next door evolved
just enough to employ the ability to dispassionately inflict true
injury and eventual mental detriment upon his fellow human being. In
this ! case, Phineas his best friend, or so he had previously
assumed. Finny, the victim in the situation, was not as accepting or
willing to realize the actual pieces composing the incident and all of
the factors leading up to it. Even when confronted by a confession,
Gene's face to face confession, he would not acknowledge the fact that
his best friend would or could intentionally murder his only true
abilities and destroy his only hopes for the future. Finny simply
denied himself the easy explanation that it "was Gene." He wanted, most
likely subconsciously, to have something more representative, something
that held within it some higher sense of complexity and/or reasoning.
Finny, always being the brave and in some distinct way more than human
character, had fallen and broken with a sudden and simple movement of a
branch. The "super-human" character represented by Finny both in the
eyes of Gene and distantly by Finny himself, had been in a sense
fractured by the intentions of a mere mortal, a simpler and less
foreboding character; Gene. In this manner, Finny's evolution was not
so much a growth in mental or physical aspirations nor was it a gradual
process slowly manipulating itself over time. Finny's evolution as a
human was something of an inverse operation. Gene gradually moved
forward, growing as a person and always evolving, moving upward along
some imaginary stairway of character and what it means to be truly
human. Finny in contrast, was thrust from what he and those around him
saw as the highest form of character and of accomplishment, deep into
the broken and shattered wasteland of lesser humanity. He was
decelerated in his trip forward and left bitter and unresponsive to his
real feelings. Pushing them deeper and farther into his mind in a
feeble attempt to forget, or even displace the emotions as
inconsequential. The consequences of Finny's denial would catch up
with him however and ultimately lead to what most people fear. During a
mock trial later in the story, Finny was presented with evidence by
supporting character Brinker. In quick summation, Brinker was a
confused and rather jealous character in his own right. Throughout the
story there are several incidents to suggest Brinker was a manipulator
and was attempting to replace Gene as Finny's best friend. Childish and
an instigator, Brinker sets up the mock trial in an attempt to sway
Finny into finally realizing that Gene hurt him purposely and needed to
be excommunicated as a result. Gene was still shaken and somewhat
confused by his earlier actions, however he had begun to realize that
he had changed and was constantly and consistently changing still,
whether he wanted to or not. He was evolving and he began to come to
terms with his newfound state of mind. Finny in contrast still could
not accept the blatant facts and refused to participate in the trial,
leaving only moments after it had begun. In an abstract form of
rebellion against his own emotions Finny walked out of the hall where
the trail had been proceeding. As the doors closed behind him the
remaining characters were silent as Finny's footsteps slowly faded into
a sweet silence of pride and ignorance on Finny's part. Abruptly and
violently however, the silence was shattered by the muffled but
distinct sound of something heavy hitting the floor. The characters ran
to the scene and found Finny lying at the bottom of the stairs. Tragedy
had again struck the very soul of Finny as his leg had br! oken once
more. The ultimate irony had restated its presence and such effects.
As a result of his second fall, a piece of bone marrow from Phineas'
leg had separated and traveled through his bloodstream finally reaching
his heart where it rested within an artery. The marrow clogged the
artery and Finny died on the operating table. Tragedy had become a
recurring aspect of Knowles' vision. Tragedy and the struggle of human
characters with both their own psychological imperfections and the
effects that those impurities have upon the interaction and/or nature
of the other characters in that particular story. Knowles has
brilliantly combined the complexity of human emotions with the very
fabric of character evolution. He has proven that evolution is not only
dependent upon a character and his or her actions, yet is constituted
of all of the character's emotions in unison with the interplay between
the character and their environment. The way that all factors combined
ultimately reflects upon that character's evolution as well as the
evolution of fellow c! haracters as effects.

essay written by steve sawyer

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