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A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

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Examples of irony in A Separate Peace

Summary:

Examples of irony in A Separate Peace include Gene's envy of Finny, despite Finny's genuine friendship, and the fact that Finny's athletic prowess and charm inadvertently lead to his downfall. Additionally, the peaceful setting of the Devon School contrasts with the internal conflicts and the impending war, highlighting the ironies of adolescence and the loss of innocence.

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What are three examples of irony in A Separate Peace?

I think one good example of irony in the book is the name "Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session." It is an ironic name because because Finny ends up dying as a result of the club's actions. Afterward, Gene feels as if he has died too. The club's name winds up not being such an innocent and harmless name.

A second example of irony within the book is the character of Leper. He is portrayed as a weak character, and he is the character most likely to fight in the war only if drafted; however, Leper becomes the first boy to join the war effort because he volunteers to join.

A third example of irony is that Gene is the person who bounces the branch, which ultimately leads to Finny's death. It's ironic because Gene is supposed to be Finny's best friend. Finny trusts Gene more than any other boy at the school, and it's unexpected to readers that Finny's most best, most trusted friend winds up being the cause of his death.

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What are three examples of irony in A Separate Peace?

Examples of Irony:

1.  The boy who is considered the weakest at Devon--Leper--is the first to enlist in the war effort.  Granted, Leper does not make it very far in the training process, but his initial decision to leave school and enlist surprises everyone.

2. It is also ironic that Finny's second "accident," the fall down the steps, causes him to break the same leg again.  This is ironic and symbolic.  It's as if Gene injures Finny a second time.

3. At the novel's end, the doctor explains to Gene that Finny died during surgery when marrow--representative of life and living life to the fullest in literature--causes a blood clot of sorts which stops Finny's heart.  It's as if Finny is so full of life that it kills him.

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Can you provide examples of irony in A Separate Peace?

Irony is defined as being a situation in which the reader recognizes a deeper meaning to something that is said or that happens within a story than do the characters of the story.

On page 44 of my edition of A Separate Peace, Gene is questioning Finny about what his reaction would be if Gene took the prize for best academic student in the class. After an extended exchange, Finny ends the discussion with the comment, "I'd kill myself out of jealous envy." Gene accepts this statement as being true and is thunderstruck by Finny's deceptive nature; an ironic situation because Finny had no interest in trying to be a good student, didn't care about Gene's academic success at that time, and later actively pushed Gene to be a better student.

On page 89, some of the Devon boys have been shoveling the train tracks in order to allow the trains to resume.

All of us lined both sides of the track and got ready to cheer the engineer and passengers. The coach windows were open and the passengers surprisingly were hanging out; they were all men, I could discern, all young, all alike. It was a troop train.

The schoolboys were working to enable boys only slightly older than themselves to be taken to the war, which they were facing themselves at the conclusion of the school year. While the schoolboys were tired and dirty from their hard work shoveling the grimy snow, at that time the troops were rested and fresh in crisp, clean uniforms. They had a purpose to their lives, while the students at Devon seemed to be living in limbo, with very little real reason for their daily activities beyond shoveling snow to allow troop trains to get through.

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What are examples of dramatic and verbal irony in "A Separate Peace"?

Verbal irony occurs when a speaker intentionally says something that he or she does not literally mean and uses words to convey the opposite meaning. In chapter 4, Gene asks Finny if he would mind if he was head of the class. Finny laughs and employs verbal irony by telling Gene, "I’d kill myself out of jealous envy" (24). Finny's comment is an example of verbal irony because he has no intention of actually killing himself and sarcastically says this to Gene as a joke.

Dramatic irony is when the audience knows more about a situation, circumstance, or event in a story than the leading characters. A good example of dramatic irony concerns the fact that nobody except for Leper and Gene knows that Gene intentionally bounced on the branch of the tree to make Finny fall, which resulted in his leg breaking. The majority of the novel concerns the fact that Finny and the boys at Devon do not know that Gene intentionally made Finny fall from the tree.

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What are examples of dramatic and verbal irony in "A Separate Peace"?

The inscription over the door of the First Academy Building of Devon School reads, "Here Boys Come to be Made Men" certainly seems dramatically ironic in light of the narrative since Gene's character does not develop integrity at all, and Leper becomes a sacrificial victim of war.  So, too, is the secret society that the boys form ironic.  For, the "Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session" results in the death of Finny.

Another example of situational irony is the remark of Phineas about the tree in Chapter 1:  "What I like best about this tree...is that it's such a cinch!"  In reference to the tree again, Finny uses verbal irony in Chapter 2 when he tells Mr. Prud'homme,

The real reason, sir, was that we just had to jump out of that tree....We had to do that, naturally...because we're all getting ready for the war.

Of course, Finny is merely toying with his teacher and does not mean what he says.

Later in this chapter, Gene makes a remark that is dramatically ironic as he says, "There was no harm in envying even your best friend a little."

Another example of verbal irony occurs in Chapter 5 after Finny's accident when Finny asks, "you aren't going to start living by the rules, are you?" and Gene replies, Oh,no, I wouldn't do that."  Even Gene admits "that was the most false thing...."

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What are examples of dramatic and verbal irony in "A Separate Peace"?

Dramatic irony involves the reader knowing more than the characters do.  In Chapter 4, Gene comes to the conclusion that Finny's escapades have all been an attempt to sabotage his grades.

I found it.  I found a single sustaining thought.  The thought was, You and Phineas are even already.  You are even in enmity.  You are both coldly driving ahead for yourselves alone.  You did hate him for breaking that school swimming record, but so what?  He hated you for getting an A in every course but one last term.

This realization comes after the first three chapters in which Finny is presented as being honest, charming, generous with his friends, genuinely kind and compassionate. Finny is not jealous of Gene; he is not trying to sabotage Gene's grades.  We the readers can see through Gene's jealousy and misjudgment of Finny, and this creates a form of dramatic irony.   Gene projects his own feelings upon Finny, and we know that Gene's epiphany is a false one.  Even though the novel is told from Gene's perspective, we know what Gene does not:  his jealousy of Finny is destroying what could have been a wonderful friendship.

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What are examples of dramatic and verbal irony in "A Separate Peace"?

The biggest example of irony in the text is the fact that except for Gene and Leper, nobody in the text knows that Gene intentionally bounced on the limb to cause Finny to fall. This is an example of dramatic irony, or when the audience knows something that other characters in the text do not. This particular example of dramatic irony creates tension in the novel because the reader gets to see Gene’s lies and eventual guilt, both of which give insight into Gene’s true character.

Another example of irony in the novel is the Latin inscription above the First Academy Building, which roughly translates to “Here Boys Come to be Made Men.” This is an example of situational irony because the boys at Devon School don’t really become men, both literally and figuratively. Finny and Leper both die before adulthood, and Gene actually becomes less responsible during his time there.

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What are examples of dramatic and verbal irony in "A Separate Peace"?

Although there are many examples of irony in A Separate Peace, two examples are:

1)  In many cases, Finny has power over Gene's actions.  For example, he convinces him to go to the beach, resulting in Gene failing his first test.  Gene changes his mind about enlisting because of Finny's return to school.  However, in the end, Gene's jouncing of the limb causes Gene to have a significant amount of power over what happens to Finny.  It is ironic that although Gene is jealous of Finny's abilities, it is Gene who actually has a great deal of power over what happens to Finny.

2)  In chapter 2, Finny "practically saves" Gene's life when he grabs Gene's arm when he loses his balance on the limb. This is ironic because Gene later jounces the limb, resulting in Finny's death.  The name "the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session" is also ironic because Finny ends up dying as a result of the club's actions and Gene feels as if he has died too.

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What are examples of dramatic and verbal irony in "A Separate Peace"?

One definition of Irony is when the unexpected happens; but not only that, it's also when someone does their best to avoid a situation and gets involved anyway. Another definition might be when things don't turn out the way we expect they would. In Leper's case, he was a loner for the first 9 chapters of the novel and then signs up for the army! That was a very unexpected decision because he had never shown any interest in the army and was a character who would most likely wait to be drafted before entering the war. But the irony doesn't end there. Leper goes into the army hoping to get into a special ski patrol because he likes skiing; but, he can't get past basic training for psychological reasons. Hence, the Leper gets a shot of reality opposite of what he expected, too. Another example of irony is how Gene tries to avoid publicly facing his responsibility for the tree episode by confessing to Finny. Unexpectedly, Gene is brought before a student court no matter how hard he tried to keep it a private matter between himself and Finny. Yet, the most unexpected moment for me was when Finny died in the end. He was getting better and at least going to walk again (if not ever being able to do sports again). And the one who loved life and wanted to be a part of the war and everything involved in physical activity gets crippled and later dies. It's not fair, but irony usually never is.

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What are examples of dramatic and verbal irony in "A Separate Peace"?

One example of irony in A Separate Peace is when Finny fell from the tree. He fell because his friend Gene bounced the limb. So he was hurt/betrayed by the person who he trusted more than anyone else. Also, the scene where Finny is about to fall was ironic because it showed him awkward and almost clumsy when he is usually considered the best athlete in the school. Now Finny, as a result of the fall, will never be able regain his former glory as an athlete.

There was also an example of irony in the Latin inscription over the door at the school. The quote states that boys are made into men at Devon School. Traditionally the reader would picture their growth taking place through their education. However, Finny grew up and became disillusioned as a result of his fall and the loss of his athleticism. Gene grew up because of the guilt he experienced over being the cause of Finny’s injury and, eventually, the second break in his leg which led to his death.

Irony can also be seen in Ch 4 when the reader sees the way that Gene misunderstands Finny’s intentions. He keeps thinking that there is something dark about Finny. He thinks that Finny sees them as being in competition with one another and that Finny wants to keep him (Gene) from success. The fact that this is completely untrue is also ironic.

In Ch 8, Finny is helping Gene train for the 1944 Olympics. Finny is trying to live through Gene by making himself the kind of athlete he used to be. Gene works hard and improves his running time, but he is losing himself in the process and becoming more like Finny. Finny makes a comment about Gene learning more about himself through exercise. Gene has learned something, but not what Finny thinks. The irony is that he has learned how easy it is for him to change himself into what Finny wants him to be.

Later in the book (Ch 10), there is a conversation between the boys discussing Finny’s strength. Finny insists that he is doing better and Gene agrees with him. This is ironic given what happens at the end of the chapter.

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