Friendships eventually lead to disaster
In history, this is portrayed through the mighty Julius Caesar, who was assassinated by his best friend Brutus. John Knowles, the author of A Separate Peace, also illustrates the idea of friendship ultimately leading to disaster. The protagonist of A Separate Peace, Gene, is an innocent, introverted, and intelligent student. He has many opinions towards his so-called “best friend” Phineas, or Finny. Unlike Gene, Phineas is very athletic, extroverted, and extremely loved by all of the students at Devon school. As the novel progresses, it becomes more clear that Gene and Phineas’s personalities differ in many ways, specifically with regards to jealousy and kindness.
Gene and Phineas’s personalities differ with regards to jealousy. Phineas states “‘You can’t come to the shore with just anybody [...] the proper person is your best pal.’” (Knowles 41). Throughout the novel, Phineas is open to Gene and communicates his feelings. Phineas treats Gene as a best friend and would never feel jealous of Gene’s achievements. However, Gene states “He had gotten away with everything. I felt a sudden stab of disappointment [...] I wanted to see some more excitement; that must have been it.” (Knowles 22). At the traditional term tea, Gene felt a sense of envy and jealousy towards Phineas when he was able to talk his way out of the formal dress code. Gene illustrates the idea that he wants to witness Phineas fail and suffer the consequences of his actions. John Knowles uses this characteristic of jealousy to exemplify the idea that Gene and Phineas have conflicting characteristics. As the chapters progress, John Knowles continues to strengthen and amplify the feeling of jealousy between Phineas and Gene until these feelings peak at the climax.
Likewise, Gene and Phineas’s personalities differ with regards to kindness. Phineas states “‘I didn’t know you needed to study,’ he said simply, ‘I didn’t think you ever did. I thought it just came to you.’ ” (Knowles 50). Out of kindness, Phineas makes sure to include his best friend in everything he does, such as Blitzball or jumping out of the tree. When Gene got angry and frustrated at Phineas’s request to attend the club meeting, Phineas encourages Gene to study and he was very open to Gene needed to study for his exams. On the other hand, Gene states “I took a step towards him, and then my knees bent and I jounced the limb [...] and hit the bank with a sickening, unnatural thud. It was the first clumsy physical action I had ever seen him make.” (Knowles 52). Gene illustrates his hatefulness towards Phineas by purposely causing him to fall out of the tree. Gene finally felt a sense of achievement after witnessing Phineas finally make a mistake. Gene’s actions later destroy their friendship and bond between them. John Knowles uses the trait kindness to stress the idea that Phineas and Gene continue to exemplify opposite characteristics. Phineas’s willingness to show kindness to others helps illustrate the two characters differences.
In summation, Gene and Phineas demonstrate many opposing characteristics, such as jealousy and kindness. Over time, Gene and Finny demonstrate their opposite personalities through the ideas of jealousy and kindness. In both cases, Gene had a negative personality, while Finny had a positive personality. Overall, John Knowles wants to convey the idea that Gene and Finny represent a dramatic character foil and their differences are highlighted through their actions. Eventually, like people throughout history, their actions lead to the corruption of their tightly woven friendship.