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Knowles’ Separate Peace Essays: The Theme of A Separate Peace

The Theme of A Separate Peace

The persistent theme of A Separate Peace is the deterioration of a complex friendship. The bond between two boys (Finny and Gene) becomes tested and attacked, as the reader observes a seemingly utopian relationship fall into decadence. Gene becomes challenged with various inner hostilities, while Finny, his proclivity for athletics revoked, has been forced to find acceptability and provocation elsewhere. Furthermore, the book commences during mid-to-late 1942, during the height of the Axis powers’ success. The effect of stress and tension on the camaraderie of the boys becomes elevated. The intensities of war, envy, and intricate personalities synthesize to provide an interesting look into the subconscious mind and sanity of war-time youth.

Phineas and Gene form the illusion of great companionship, combining superior athletic ability with a powerful intellect. However, a silent rivalry develops between them. At the beginning of the story Gene seems to accept Finny’s premium physical agility, but he resents what he feels is flaunting (of his aptitudes) by Phineas. As the book progresses, Gene continues to look deeper into their fellowship and quickly becomes wildly jealous of Finny. Eventually, Gene impairs Finny by jouncing the limb where Finny stood. Phineas, meanwhile, seems unaware of Gene’s evil thoughts. He continues to remain optimistic and promising.

Amidst this rivalry, World War II persists and the faculty at Devon School are preparing the students for entrance into the military. Propaganda and the war effort enthrall the youth. From the forming of the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session, to the shoveling of snow at the railroad yard, everyone is absorbed by the aura of warfare. Gene’s realization, while shoveling snow, that “we [he and his schoolmates] seemed to be nothing but children playing among heroic men” (89) demonstrated his generation are merely pawns in a global conflict. Gene sustains his inclination towards pessimism and exposes the evil within him.

The disharmony betwixt Gene and Finny constitutes a separate, full-scale war when Phineas fractures his leg once again. With Phineas’ inner evil now exposed and his superficial personality shattered, Gene quickly becomes the object of his animosity. With the death of Phineas, the relationship has exhaustively deteriorated. When he fails to weep, Gene reveals that it is not just Finny’s funeral, but his own.

The Character of Casey in The Grapes of Wrath

The Character of Casey in The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck passionately describes a time of unfair poverty, unity, and the human spirit growth in the classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath. The novel tells of real, diverse characters that experience growth through turmoil and hardship. Jim Casy, a personal favorite character, is an ex-preacher that meets with a former worshiper, Tom Joad. Casy continues a relationship with Tom and the rest of the Joads as they embark on a journey to California with the hopes of prosperity. Casy represents how the many situations in life impact the ever-changing souls of human beings and the search within to discover one’s true identity and beliefs. Casy, however, was much more complex than the average individual. His unprejudiced, unified, Christ-like existence twists and turns with every mental and extraneous disaccord. Jim Casy is an interesting, complicated man. He can be seen as a modern day Christ figure, except without the tending manifest belief in the Christian faith. The initials of his name, J.C., are the same as those of Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus was exalted by many for what he stood for and was supposed to be, Casy was hailed and respected by many for simply being a preacher. Casy and Jesus both saw a common goodness in the average man and saw every person as holy. Both Christ and Casy faced struggles between their ideals and the real world. Despite Casy’s honesty, goodness, and loyalty to all men, he would not earn a meal or warm place to stay. Although Jesus had many followers, still others opposed his preaching until the very end. These prophets attempted to disengage man from the cares of the world and create a high spiritualism that stemmed joy from misery. All the migrants found pleasures along their trips and kept their hope and spirit throughout the journey. Thanks to Jesus, the saddest, dullest existence has had its glimpse of Heaven. Casy once remarked, I gotta see them folks that’s gone out on the road. I gotta feelin’ I got to see them. They gonna need help no preachin’ can give ’em. Hope of heaven when their lives ain’t lived? Holy Sperit when their own sperit is downcast an’ sad?” (page #) Casy wished to reach out to others in spite of his own troubles. He wanted to give them sprit; hope and he wanted to rejuvenate their souls.

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