Where is the significant quote in A Separate Peace that says "Wars are made instead by something evil in the human heart"?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During a conversation between Gene and Brinker, Brinker mentions that his father's generation is responsible for causing the war that his generation is forced to fight. Gene mentions that he has heard Brinker's generational argument before, as well as Finny's conspiracy that wars are fought as an intense "practical joke" by wealthy men. However, Gene disagrees with both Brinker and Finny's assessment of why wars are waged. Gene says,

"I could never agree with either of them. It would have been comfortable, but I could not believe it. Because it seemed clear that wars were not made by generations and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart" (Knowles, 109).

Gene knows firsthand the intrinsic wickedness that each individual possesses. He has already fought his personal war against Finny, someone he admired and envied. Despite Gene's friendship with Finny, his feelings of inadequacy and jealousy motivated him to severely injure Finny. Unlike Finny, Gene believes that there is something inherently wrong and immoral in humans, which creates conflict on both a large and small scale. From Gene's perspective, he defeated his personal enemy, Finny, at Devon before he ever stepped on a battlefield.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This statement of Gene from Chapter 13 is thematic as he has come to the realization that his real enemy is something terribly dark inside himself. Once the War has begun, Gene has an epiphany: his private war parallels the great war.

Because it seemed clear that wars were not made by generations and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart.

Gene's secret evil is the same evil that starts wars. He has waged war with Phineas on three fronts: 

  1. He has suspected Finny of keeping him from making good grades by pulling him away from his studies.
  2. He has developed feelings of inadequacy as he measures himself against Finny and envies him.
  3. He has retaliated against Finny by jostling the limb when they are in the tree from which the Secret Suicide Society jumps.

Gene's war is the intrinsic war of man, whether private or magnified on the world scale. In effect, Gene realizes he created his own Maginot Line, overcoming his enemy only after indirectly causing Phineas's death.

caledon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In regards to where the quote is located: in Chapter 13. My version places it on page 104, about 15 paragraphs from the end of the book.

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A Separate Peace

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