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Knowles’ Separate Peace Essays: Character Traits

Character Traits in A Separate Peace

In the book A Separate Peace by John Knowles, one of the

main themes is the effects of realism, idealism, and isolationism on

Brinker, Phineas, and Gene. Though not everyone can be described

using one of these approaches to life, the approaches

completely conform to these characters to create one realist, one idealist,

and one isolationist; thereby providing the foundation of the novel.

The realist is Brinker. Brinker’s realism takes on a very morbid

quality after Gene decides not to enlist with him, do to Phineas’s

return to Devon. Brinker still sees everything the way it is, but

begins to think that the way it is, is bad. On page 122, he is quoted

as saying, “Frankly, I just don’t see anything

to celebrate, winter or spring or anything else.” Brinker will scrutinize

any incident until he finds a dark side to it, because, in his mind, at least

one side of everything is a dark side. Already we have the footing for our


Phineas (Finny) is the idealist. Like Brinker, Finny’s approach

experiences a grim metamorphoses. Before his accident, Finny sees

the world as a glorious playing field and life as a never ending game.

After his accident; however, Finny begins to view the world through

the eyes of a paranoid old man who is always seeing something

covert in everything. On page 106, Finny even goes as far

as to ask Gene, “Do you really think that the United States of America is

in a state of war with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan?” This outlook

is a mental facade that only succeeds in setting Finny up for a harder


Finally there is the isolationist, Gene. Gene’s approach is

austere from the beginning. It is Gene who generates the dark

change in the others. Gene looks for danger in everything he is

emotionally close to. When he finds danger, he ostracizes

himself from whatever it is that is posing a threat to him. If he can not

find danger, as with Finny, he creates it. On page 45 he strives so hard

to create danger in Finny that he falsely concludes that, “Finny had

deliberately set out to wreck my studies.” This creates the story’s

Jane Eyre Essay: Refusal to Sacrifice Moral Principles

Refusal to Sacrifice Moral Principles in Jane Eyre

The need to love and to be loved is a general characteristic basic to human nature. However, the moral principles and beliefs that govern this need are decided by the individual. In the novel Jane Eyre , author, Charlotte Brontë, vividly describes the various characters’ personalities and beliefs. When the reader first meets the main character, Jane Eyre, an orphan of ten, she is living at Gateshead Hall in England with her Aunt Reed and three cousins, all of whom she greatly despises. Soon after, Jane is sent away to the Lowood Institution, a girls’ school, where she lives for the next eight years. Jane then moves to Thornfield Hall to work as a governess for Mr. Rochester; they fall in love and plan to be married. However, during the wedding ceremony, it is revealed that Mr. Rochester already has a wife. Humiliated, Jane leaves Thornfield and travels to Moor House. While there, Jane hears Mr. Rochester’s voice calling her name one evening; she immediately returns to Thornfield only to find a charred and desolate house burned by Mr. Rochester’s lunatic wife. During the tragedy, Mr. Rochester’s wife dies and he looses a hand as well as the sight in both eyes. However, because his wife is deceased, Jane and Mr. Rochester are free to marry and do so. Even though Jane’s existence is anchored in the need to love and to be loved, she is an intense character and refuses to sacrifice her moral principles and beliefs regardless of the situation.

Jane’s intense character is first observed when Mrs. Reed warns the director of the Lowood school, ” ‘to guard against her [Jane’s] worst fault, a tendency to deceit’ ” (41). Later, Jane tells Mrs. Reed she is not a deceitful child an…

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…ohn she loves, but Mr. Rochester. This perspective also demonstrates Jane’s unwillingness to submit to an unethical situation against her beliefs.

Throughout the novel, Jane Eyre, it is revealed that Jane is a character whose existence is anchored in the need to love and to be loved. However, she is an intensely passionate character who refuses to sacrifice her moral principles and beliefs. While the desire to love and to be loved is a general characteristic of human nature, how this need is obtained is dependent upon the individual’s moral principles and beliefs.

Works Cited and Consulted

Brontë, Charlotte. The World’s Great Classics: Jane Eyre . New York: Grolier Incorporated.

Gates, Barbara Timm, ed. Critical Essays on Charlotte Bronte. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990.

Pickrel, Paul. “Jane Eyre: The Apocalypse of the Body.” ELH 53 (1986): 165-82.

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