In A Separate Peace, the adult Gene evaluates his actions as a teenager. What effect does this have?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The novel is told in the retrospective point of view. Gene comes back to Devon as a successful adult to remember the events that transpired there. The story then goes into the flashback with Gene as the narrator. The novel then develops through his memories. The effects of this structure are numerous.

One value of the retrospective point of view is that narrator has lived past the events and can understand them in a way that eluded him at the time. (This is the same point of view that Harper Lee used inĀ  To Kill a Mockingbird.) The effect of the retrospective point of view in Knowles' novel is that Gene's final assessment at the novel's conclusion has a more profound meaning because he has learned his important truth through a devastating personal experience. We understand why and how Gene has arrived at the knowledge that violence and destruction, whether it exists between countries or between friends, results from "something ignorant in the human heart." In Gene's case, the ignorance in his heart was his fear of being inferior and his own self-hatred. Thus he lashed out at Finny with tragic results. The adult Gene can look back over the years and understand who he was then and why he acted as he did. This understanding brings him the kind of peace that had eluded him at school.

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A Separate Peace

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