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A Separate Peace

2 Pages 601 Words

At the end of A Separate Peace, Gene reflects back on everything that happened and says “My war ended before I even put on a uniform; I was on active duty all my time at school; I killed my enemy there.” He, of course, does not mean this in a literal sense; he was not actually on active duty during school. Because the only person he kills (although indirectly) is Phineas, the statement “I killed my enemy there” might at first lead you to believe that Phineas is the “enemy” about whom Gene is talking. It is, however, more likely that Gene’s enemy was himself. His war was not the same one that engulfed the world around him, but rather the conflict between his easygoing personality and the darker part of him lurking just under the surface.
One can tell that the “enemy” is not Phineas from the enormous amount of praise Gene heaps upon him after his death. “He possessed an extra vigor, a heightened confidence in himself, a serene capacity for affection…” and “Finny had a vitality which could not be quenched so suddenly…” are some of the ways Gene describes his best friend after his death. The enemy Gene “killed” was not Phineas – the only person whose death he was actually involved in – therefore he must have meant “I killed my enemy” figuratively rather than literally. This “enemy”, then, is the dark side of his human nature, which exists in everybody but comes out extremely strongly in Gene. He does indeed defeat, or “kill”, this enemy. He recognizes that Phineas never had any malicious intent towards him and that he was merely projecting his own insecurities into his friend. He also realizes that he did something unthinkable (crippling Phineas, who could use his mobility like no other), feels incredible remorse, and he overcomes the darker side of himself. In Gene’s own words: “…Phineas created an atmosphere in which I continued now to live.”
Gene’s “war” was the conflict...

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