Change in Gene

Use of Seasons to Symbolize Change in Gene and Finny Change is a part of life, as we all grow and become different. Sometimes change can be difficult, and other times we embrace to change or reject it. Changes such as aging and season changing can be natural, but we also cause others changes like wars and personal relationships. In A Separate Peace, John Knowles describes a change in the world in 1942 and how it affects the relationship of two high school boys. Knowles uses summer and winter to symbolize the change in the relationship between Gene and Finny by effectively utilizing the two different periods of time to emphasize how, in our lives, changes are inevitable and shocking. Knowles uses summer to represent the vigorous and cheerful Gene and Finny at the first part of the novel. Like summer which is viewed as s active and carefree season, these two friends are at first light-hearted and full of energy as Knowles writes early in the novel. They also engage in rough physical activities together such as blitzball and jumping off the tree, which are also associated with outdoor life during summer. However, the easygoing friendship ends when Gene undergoes a change within himself. His respect and awe for Finny turn into a feeling of envy as Knowles writes, “I was beginning to see that Phineas could get away with anything. I couldn’t help envying him that a little, which was perfectly normal. There was no harm in envying even your best friend a little” (25). Then Gene develops a powerful rivalry between him and Finny. This marks the end of the most vicious summer heat when the heat of friendship gradually lowers itself. When Gene realizes Finny’s friendship is genuine, he is struggling between an old friendship and a new rivalry, “I should have told him then that he was my best friend also…But something held me back. Perhaps I was stopped by that level of feeling, deeper than thought, which contains the truth” (48). However, Gene resists to change his negative opinion on Finny, and he finally causes the accident that ends the energetic summer and marks the beginning of solemn winter, “Still it had come to an end, in the last long rays of daylight at the tree, when Phineas fell” (74). Winter symbolizes the more passive and mature side of the relationship. After the horrific accident, both Gene and Finny go through an emotional change that marks the beginning of their adulthood. Gene is now distressed at how the accident ruined Finny’s life and regrets his actions during ‘summer’ period. This changes Gene from envying Finny to trying to be Finny, which makes Gene want to lose his own identity, “I lost part of myself to him then, and a soaring sense of freedom revealed that this must have been my purpose from the first: to become part of Phineas” (85). All the active and lively part of Gene fade away, and Gene feels like it is his duty to protect and now crippled Finny. In addition, Finny is now emotionally and physical dependant on Gene, even though Gene does not realize it yet. After his accident, Finny changes from sharing his thoughts to concealing his true feelings from Gene. This dependence on Gene forces Finny not to make a big deal out of Gene’s involvement in the accident. Unlike summer, when their friendship was outgoing, Gene and Finny now share a strong bond hidden from the other boys, which increases the curiosity from Brinker who holds a mock trial to find the truth behind this strange friendship after the accident. As the trial passes, it becomes obvious that Gene caused the accident on Finny. However, Finny tries to avoid the truth, and is afraid that it will break down his friendship with Gene. For the first time, Finny breaks down from his cool usual self. The casual and sharp Finny of the summer has changed into a helpless and desperate cripple in the winter, “ ‘You get all your facts Brinker! ’… I had never seen Finny crying… ‘You collect every f—ing fact there is in the world! ’ ” (177). The heartbreaking winter ends with Finny’s death. Gene has survived the harsh cold. Gene’s enlistment of the war, which Finny absolutely detested, hints us perhaps Gene has finally gotten rid of Finny’s influence, and he is embracing the change into spring. Knowles’ use of seasons as symbols of the friendship significantly helps the readers understand the importance of change in the novel. The summer and winter of A Separate Peace describe the unique relationship between Gene and Finny and how an easy happiness can be changed into grief.

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