A Separate Peace
"Holding firmly to the trunk, I took a step toward him, and
then my knees bent and I jounced the limb." This quotation
from the novel " A Separate Peace", written by John Knowles
points to the underlying theme; Man's Inhumanity to Man.
The events that support this are: Finny's tragic fall, the
Mock trial and when Leper tries to visit Gene.
The incident of the tragic fall began when Finny, the star
athlete, wanted to jump from the tree. Gene said that he
was coming to join him, but. Finny reminded him about
studying. It was this comment that made Gene realize that,
"He (Finny) had never been jealous of me for a second. Now
I knew that there never was and never could have been any
rivalry between us, I couldn't stand this." This led to
Gene's actions which caused the accident. He took a step
toward the trunk, put his knees on top of the branch and
jounced the limb. The shaking movement caused Finny to
lose his balance and tumble to the ground. Instead of
feeling remorse or concern for Finny's well being, Gene
watches Finny fall and he thinks to himself, "It was the
first clumsy physical action I had ever seen him make."
In the scene where Brinker brings Finny and Gene to the
mock trial to let everyone know the truth about the cause
of the accident, Brinker's real concern is to hurt Gene,
destroy his reputation, and break up Gene's and Finny'
friendship. In other words, he felt that this was a way of
" blasting away at Gene and shoving his reputation as a
respected individual into the ground". This is shown when
Brinker and three acquaintances come into Gene and Finny's
dorm and pull them out. After they enter the Assembly Room,
Brinker remarks, "You see how Finny limps." This phrase was
the beginning of his plan to set the truth loose, or
primarily break the friendship link between Finny and Gene.
Brinker chose the Assembly Room as the setting for this
trial since there is nothing humorous about the place. It
is a place which would be terrible for Gene's sake to talk
about the cause of the accident. Brinker then continues by
saying to Gene, "There is a war on and here's one soldier
(Finny) our side has already lost. We've got to find out
what happened." This powerful remark by Brinker ignites
the trial and also indicates a strong reason for it. By
stressing the idea of "truth" Brinker hopes that when the
truth is revealed, the strong bond between Finny and Gene
will be broken and Finny will experience another tragic
fall. During the trial, Brinker makes several sly remarks
about the accident. For example when Brinker and Gene are
talking about the accident, Brinker asks Finny, "Have you
ever thought that you didn't just fall out of that tree?"
This inquiry from Brinker sets Finny into a different focus
about the accident, a focus which will narrow it all down
to Gene being possibly the cause.
Another time when the underlying theme is apparent is when
Leper calls Gene and wants to visit him in his Vermont
home. Instead of being a gracious host, Gene tries to avoid
the encounter. Gene runs from Leper because he cannot face
the fact that Leper has gone "crazy" and just rambles when
he talks. This is apparent when Leper tells Gene, "You
always were the lord of the manor, weren't you?" or when he
says, "like the time you knocked Finny out of the tree."
This comment provokes Gene because it is reminding him of
his inhumane action to Finny and he knocks Leper out of his
chair. Another example of Gene's lack of empathy for Leper
is when the scene finally ends. Gene says to Leper, "Do you
think I want to hear every detail? I don't care what
happened to you, Leper." This quote from Gene is after
Leper explained to him the details of his insanity.
"A Separate Peace" was a story about friendship, loyalty
and dishonor. Man's Inhumanity to Man was the underlying
theme of this story. This isn't just an issue of this
novel, it's an issue of life. People, family, friends,
etc.. do things to one another which are inhumane. These
actions can result in death and/or destruction.
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