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A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

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Gene describes Elwin Lepellier (Leper) as one who didn't argue with others. In fact, he says that Leper could become inanimate at times (17). He's the type of boy who only exists near the other boys at Devon. For example, he runs along with the others in the game of Blitzball, but he won't engage by catching the ball. Behavior like this means either the person is shy, or doesn't want to accept the people or events that surround him. This is a part of Leper's denial processes--failure to accept reality and to engage.

There is one time that Leper may have engaged with the other boys by jumping out of the tree, but he never gets to do it because Finny brakes his leg right beforehand. Gene didn't believe that Leper would jump out of the tree anyway. Gene said the following about Leper:

"I didn't believe it for a second. Leper Lepellier would go down paralyzed with panic on any sinking troopship before making such a jump. Finny had put him up to it. . ." (57).

From the above passage one could infer that Leper may have thought himself brave, but in a pinch, he would shy away, panic, and not do anything noteworthy in the end. Possibly Gene sees the truth about Leper, but he can't see it for himself.

Other descriptions of Leper cite him as one who doesn't pay attention to the reality going on around him. Gene notices that he stays in his own little world and then becomes surprised when there's a shift in life (93). This behavior might be the result of someone hiding from the realities around him as well.

On major episode of denial for Leper is his enlistment in the army, though. He thinks he signs up for a ski patrol and is horribly flung into the realities of living closely with other men who burp, cough, and stink. The whole time he was at Devon, he could pick and choose his engagement with others, but he can't choose either way in the army. Therefore, Leper was in denial when he believed the army's film about the ski patrol and that the army was a clean, easy and fun decision. Eventually, he has a mental breakdown and runs home from the army.

Finally, Leper is still in denial about the army after his mental breakdown and Gene goes to see him. He tells Gene that if he hadn't left the army, they would have branded him a Section 8 (crazy) and given him a dishonorable discharge. He shows his denial with this struggle in the following passage:

"And the perfect word for me. . . psycho. I guess I am. I must be. Am I though, or is the army? Because they turned everything inside out" (150).

Leper blames the army for his rough time and inability to adjust to life as a soldier. Whenever someone blames others for his or her suffering, it's denial. It's a refusal to accept one's own responsibility for his or her actions, choices, and behavior. Sadly, Leper does not seem to rise above himself to recover from the consequences of such deep denial.

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