This summer all incoming freshmen were asked to read the book “A Separate Peace,” by John Knowles. Although this book would not be a book of my choice I did enjoy reading it for the interestingly developed plot, and intriguing characters that deal with real-life problems. The main character Gene goes through a period where his jealousy of his best friend drives Gene to do things he never thought he would be doing. ‘A Separate Peace,’ has many twists and turns that result in interesting reactions from readers of vast age differences.
I was very surprised by the main character Gene and his outlook on life. Gene, being best friends with one of the most popular and well-liked students Phineas, found it hard to contain his jealousy. One day, Gene lashed out and shook a branch of a tree that Phineas was standing on. This resulted in Phineas tumbling into the water at uncontrollable speeds and never being able to play sports again. This part of the book caused me to feel both surprised at Gene and confused about why Gene would do such a thing to his best friend. It took me a moment to realize that Gene may not have understood what he was doing, and most likely was not aware that Phineas would end up shattering his leg. On the other hand, the boys were not supposed to be on the tree anyway, and this adventure was Phineas’ idea. Therefore, the injury was not fully Gene’s fault. Furthermore, the book contains many pieces of figurative language as shown on page 12 when stating, “Someday the Dean would probably live entirely encased in a house of glass and be as happy as a sandpiper” (Knowles.) This metaphor helped me to have a visual of how the school looked like during wartime, as that was the books setting.
When looking at the deeper meaning of the book “A Separate Peace,” I began to formulate the question “Would Gene have told Phineas or others that he was the reason for Phineas’ shattered leg, or would he have never said anything?” I began debating this question in chapter 8 when the truth was coming out and people were beginning to conclude what had happened to Phineas. I realized that although Gene had a great feeling of guilt for what he had done, he would never admit to people that it was he who broke Phineas and his future. At the start of the book I believed Gene was a good person, yet towards the middle, I wasn’t sure if Gene had the right intentions. Readers must also consider that the story might not be fully reliable, as the book is in 1st person, and is Gene’s side of the story.
As I have already stated this book would not be one of my choices. This is because some chapters were very full of detail and exciting action, yet the majority were very calm and hard to get through because of the lack of action. The book also had a very confusing ending which I had to reread quite a few times to understand the significance. Moreover, I would have liked to see a little further into the future of what happened when all the boys were sent off to war. On the other hand, the book drew me in with its warm-hearted theme of keeping a sense of innocence. Through the author’s words, I was able to feel what the characters feel, especially when Phineas passed away. This particular part broke my heart and lead me to understand just how sorry and how much love Gene had for Phineas. Ultimately, I would not choose this book to read, but enjoyed some of the connection and reactions I had with multiple characters.