Character Traits In A Seperate Peace

the book A Separate Peace by John Knowles, one of the
main themes is the effects
of realism, idealism, and isolationism on
Brinker, Phineas, and Gene. Though
not everyone can be described
using one of these approaches to life, the approaches
conform to these characters to create one realist, one idealist,
and one
isolationist; thereby providing the foundation of the novel.

realist is Brinker. Brinker’s realism takes on a very morbid
quality after
Gene decides not to enlist with him, do to Phineas’s
return to Devon. Brinker
still sees everything the way it is, but
begins to think that the way it is,
is bad. On page 122, he is quoted
as saying, “Frankly, I just don’t see anything
to celebrate, winter or
spring or anything else.” Brinker will scrutinize
any incident until he
finds a dark side to it, because, in his mind, at least
one side of
everything is a dark side. Already we have the footing for our

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(Finny) is the idealist. Like Brinker, Finny’s approach
experiences a grim
metamorphoses. Before his accident, Finny sees
the world as a glorious playing
field and life as a never ending game.
After his accident; however, Finny
begins to view the world through
the eyes of a paranoid old man who is always
seeing something
covert in everything. On page 106, Finny even goes as far
as to ask
Gene, “Do you really think that the United States of America is
in a
state of war with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan?” This outlook
a mental facade that only succeeds in setting Finny up for a harder

there is the isolationist, Gene. Gene’s approach is
austere from the beginning.

It is Gene who generates the dark
change in the others. Gene looks for danger
in everything he is
emotionally close to. When he finds danger, he ostracizes
from whatever it is that is posing a threat to him. If he can not
danger, as with Finny, he creates it. On page 45 he strives so hard
create danger in Finny that he falsely concludes that, “Finny had
set out to wreck my studies.” This creates the story’s
main conflict and
brings about Gene’s spontaneous act of pure evil
that haunts him and the reader
throughout the remainder of the book.

These characters and these approaches
to life fit together like
the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to create an intriguing
heart, wrenching
tragedy about friendship, war, and loss. These pieces did
not just
happen to fall into place. The author knew exactly what he was
when he assigned these traits to these characters. He was
building the destruction
of a separate peace.