Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
At its most meaningful level, A Separate Peace presents a thoughtfully executed psychological study of its main character, Gene Forrester. Forrester’s sense of himself is an extremely dark and critical one, provoking feelings of insecurity particularly when he is in the company of Finny. Knowles explores the dual directions these feelings take: On one level, Forrester desires to get even (to outperform) Finny, he therefore resents Finny’s superior athletic skills. On another level, Forrester also wishes to be like Finny, to share his carefree, selfless attitudes and actions. In fact, Forrester clearly is most happy when he is at peace with Finny. At the end, however, Forrester’s dark side wins this psychological conflict; the final “peace” that is established between the two occurs after Forrester causes Finny’s fall, from which Finny never recovers. This action, in a psychological sense, eliminates Finny as Forrester’s rival and allows Forrester to feel less anxious about himself.
Yet less anxious does not mean good. At the conclusion of A Separate Peace— when Finny finally asks Forrester why he caused the fall—Forrester replies that he did not do it out of any personal hatred of Finny. Instead, Forrester is fighting himself—out of blindness and ignorance, as he himself admits—and Finny ultimately understands, before he dies, how he has been victimized by Forrester’s own psychological conflict. Essentially, then,...
(The entire section is 591 words.)
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