Symbolism in a Seperate Peace

“A Separate Peace” Throughout the novel, many settings reveal characters and events that had great importance in the book. The tree, the Assembly Room and the White Marble Staircase revealed Finny’s accident, and how the characters reacted. At the tree, Phineas is shaken from the tree and into the Devon River. Finny breaks his leg, creating the climax of the novel and a while after, Brinker hosts a trial to discover the truth about what really happened at the tree in the Assembly Room. During the trial Gene is revealed as a coward.
He begins to make up lies to show that he didn’t push Finny out of the tree. He eventually starts to proclaim that he was standing at the bottom of the tree when Finny fell. When Brinker and the other young boy who had been questioning him came closer and closer to the truth, he began to come off very defensive to the audience; arguing with what they were accusing him of. As Brinker went on and on about what may or may not have happened, Phineas will not listen, and this portrays his character as very naive.
For example, Phineas seems to be blindsided by the friendship he and Gene share, and believes that Gene truly was at the bottom of the tree, and also that he just simply lost his balance. Further into the trial, Leper Lepellier is called into the Assembly Room and clarifies what really happened the day at the tree. The truth was, Gene was standing on the limb right next to Finny and jounced the limb, causing the fall. Hearing this news, Finny is completely dumbfounded. He leaves during the trial very quietly and when Gene calls out to him, he responds, “Never mind.

I don’t care. ” This concluded the trial. The Marble Staircase is also a very significant setting in the novel. After the trial, Finny stumbles down the marble stairs, re-breaking his leg, Finny soon after dies from bone marrow entering his blood streams. This setting and the event that took place here impact Gene immensely. “Then these separate sounds collided into the general tumult of his body falling clumsily down the while marble stairs. ” Gene says this as he is listening to his ‘best pal’ fall to his death. Fifteen years later, Gene revisits Devon School.
Gene’s first visit was the Marble Staircase, where he reminisces about his best friend. Many settings John Knowles incorporated in the novel also reveal Finny, Gene and many of the other boys’ personalities. For example, one setting that was very substantial during the novel was the Playing Fields. At the Playing Fields Finny invented a gamer called Blitzball. Many of the boys enjoyed playing Blitzball (instead of the instructed game of Badminton) because Finny made the rules as the game progressed, showing his leadership as well as athletic side.
During the game, Finny created a rule that there will be no teams, showing that he wants everyone to be included. John Knowles portrays Gene as a follower within the game of Blitzball. For example, Gene does exactly what Finny tells him to, when he tells him to. Additionally, Leper Lepellier’s character is also shown within the game. At one point, Gene throws the ball to Leper, he says “Leper looked up in anguish, shrank away from the ball and voiced his first thought, a typical one, “I don’t want it! This scene shows through Lepers tone and actions that he is very shy and lonely, hence his given nick-name of ‘Leper’. In chapter three Finny and Gene take a trip to the beach. When Finny convinces Gene to go to the beach to go to the beach with him, it reveals that Gene is willing to do everything in his power to earn Finny’s approval; even if it means failing the math test he should be studying for he would attend the next morning. While being at the beach the boys do activities such as swimming in the ocean and drinking in the bar.
This represents the main theme of the novel, “A Separate Peace,” which is the reason this setting has such great importance. At the end of the night Finny tells Gene that he is his best pal. When Gene doesn’t say the same, it reveals that Gene may not truly feel the same. Another example of a setting that reveals the characters and events is the tree. Many important events take place at the tree. For example, one night Gene and Finny take a walk to the tree and climb it together. They then decide to form the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session.
Finny, again showing his leadership, made the rule that he and the other new members of the society would meet every night, creating something fun for the boys; creating peace. Also at the tree, Gene shows a huge betrayal when he causes Finny’s fall, and also the climax of the novel. This happened because of Gene’s extreme jealousy of Phineas. The settings John Knowles includes throughout the book help the reader understand the characters and events that happened further in depth. The settings also show the main theme of the book; creating a separate peace for the boys of the summer of 1942.

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New York University
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