In A Separate Peace, between the Winter Carnival and Finny's fall down the stairs, which two characters change the most? How and why?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Winter Carnival, an illusion of peace in which the boys live for a short while, ends with the arrival of Leper's telegram saying he had "escaped" from the war. This intrusion of reality is subsequently heightened by the changes in both Leper and Finny. Leper has been psychologically broken by his initiation into military experience. He could not survive boot camp, much less the war itself. When Gene sees Leper at his home and again on campus, the damage to Leper's heart and mind is obvious. The previously gentle, passive Leper has become angry, bitter, paranoid, delusional,and profane. Gene mentions that Leper cries frequently and that "Leper's not the little rabbit we used to know any more."

The change in Finny is less dramatic, but equally significant. Confronted with Leper's destruction, Finny drops all pretense about the reality of the war. Despite Gene's protests, Finny states that he is "out of it" because of his injury. As their conversation ensues, Gene recognizes that Finny is serious and that the fantasy of peace he had constructed for them has ended:

. . . he quietly brought to a close all his special inventions which had carried us through the winter. Now the facts were re-established, and gone were all the fantasies, such as the Olympic Games for A.D. 1944, closed before they had ever been opened.

Gene and Finny both recognize the reality in which they must now live, but both miss the illusion of peace that has been lost forever.

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A Separate Peace

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