Rivalry in A Separate Peace
Uploaded by rasheedclarke on May 22, 2001
Every person feels rivalry or competition towards others at some point in their lives. This rivalry greatly affects our ability to understand others, and this eventually results in paranoia and hostility. It is a part of human nature, that people coldly drive ahead for their gain alone. Man's inhumanity towards man is a way for people to protect themselves from having pain inflicted on them by others, and achieving their goals and desires without the interference of others. This concept of man's inhumanity to man is developed in A Separate Peace as the primary conflict in the novel centres on the main character, Gene, and his inner-battles with feelings of jealousy, paranoia, and inability to understand his relationship with his best friend Phineas. Competition is further demonstrated by the occurrence of World War II. It is shown that, "There were few relationships among us (the students) at Devon not based on rivalry." (p. 37) It is this rivalry and competition between the boys at Devon that ripped their friendships apart.
In the early pages of the novel, Finny confesses that Gene is his best friend. This is considered a courageous act as the students at Devon rarely show any emotion. And rather than coming back with similar affection, Gene holds back and says nothing. Gene simply cannot handle the fact that Finny is so compassionate, so athletic, so ingenuitive, so perfect. As he put it, "Phineas could get away with anything." (p. 18) In order to protect himself from accepting Finny's compassion and risking emotional suffering, Gene creates a silent rivalry with Finny, and convinced himself that Finny is deliberately attempting to ruin his schoolwork. Gene decides he and Finny are jealous of each other, and reduces their friendship to cold trickery and hostility. Gene becomes disgusted with himself after weeks of the silent rivalry. He finally discovers the truth, that Finny only wants the best for Gene, and had no hidden evil intentions. This creates a conflict for Gene as he is not able to deal with Finny's purity and his own dark emotions. On this very day Finny wants to jump off of the tree branch into the Devon river at the same time as Gene, a "double jump" (p. 51), he says, as a way of bonding. It was this decision, caused by Finny's affection for Gene and outgoing ways that resulted in drastic change for the rest...