A Seperate Peace Literary Criticism
Have you gone through an experience where you lose your innocence. In the novels Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and A Separate Peace by John Knowles, the main characters of both novels suffer a fall from innocence. Ralph from Lord of the Flies suffers his fall from innocence when he takes part in the brutal, gruesome death of Simon. However, Gene, in A Separate Peace, suffers the greatest fall from innocence. Gene subconsciously cripples his best friend Phineas, which in the end, leads to the death of his friend.
Although both characters are at fault for the death of a friend, Gene’s case is far worse because his actions are the result of jealousy, frustration, and anger. First, in Lord of the Flies, Jack and his tribe had a feast, when suddenly a shadowy figure approaches them (Simon), and all of the children chase after the figure, including Ralph, and kill it, believing that it is the beast. Ralph later realizes what had happened the night before, as he says to Piggy “That was murder” (Golding 156).When Simon approached the feast, the children are caught up in the moment, which makes this bad timing on Simon’s part. Ralph is amongst the group, and like the others, is caught up in the moment. Furthermore, Ralph takes part in the murder of the innocent Simon, however his judgment was clouded under the circumstances, unlike Gene in A Separate Peace, Ralph kills out of fear, rather than out of jealousy. Piggy explains to Ralph the morning after Simon’s death that “It was an accident…that’s what it was.
An accident…Coming out of the dark- he hadn’t no business crawling like that out of the dark. He was batty. He asked for it…it was an accident” (Golding 157) Because of the chaos and confusion on the night of Simon’s death, and the fear of the beast rising, it is quite feasible for the children to believe Simon was the beast. However, when Gene jounces the branch on which Phineas is perched, this had been done in jealousy, and in anger.Because of the build up of Genes Jealousy towards Phineas, Gene subconsciously jounces the branch, which knocks down Phineas In contrast to Ralph, Gene is full of bad emotions towards Finney, and subconsciously enacts revenge on him at the perfect moment, maiming his leg forever. Once Gene has maimed Finney, he yells“…Now you know what it is! I did it because I felt like that! Now you know yourself! ” said Gene (Knowles 70). James M.
Mellard states “The cause of Finney’s fall is not ignorance, not a blindness that just suddenly appears; rather, it is a result of a malice that has been growing in Gene ll along-a rivalry , a jealousy, a spite spite that builds in Gene before the fateful jump” (Mellard 75). After Gene sees the limp body of his best friend on the ground, he is unable to process what he has done. He cannot believe he has shaken the branch, this shows that he is unaware of his actions, proving his actions subconscious. However, Gene’s fall from innocence is caused by Finneys good-natured, fun-loving, innocent attitude, which causes Gene to jounce the branch on which Finney is standing.Finney explains his attitude toward Gene and his schoolwork by saying “I didn’t know you needed to study…I didn’t think you ever did. I thought it just came to you” (Knowles 58). Mellard also states “Knowles described Genes jouncing of the limb as a seizure, but which never the less came out of himself, and for which he was responsible” (Mellard 76)Preceding the fall of Phineas he had talked Gene into going to the beach with him, which caused Gene’s first failing grade in his high school career.
Phineas’ fun loving, innocent attitude brews up some anger in Gene which leads to the fall, even though he could have denied the visit to the beach. Upon viewing the evidence so far it may seem as though Ralphs Actions are worse than Genes. When viewing the evidence with a closed mind, Ralph’s actions appear worse than Gene’s, because Ralph is directly involved in the murder of an innocent child and friend. However, upon further viewing of the text, one sees that Ralph’s actions where based on fear rather than jealousy, such as Gene’s.Piggy exclaims to Ralph after Simon’s murder, “It was dark. There was that-that bloody dance. There was lightning and thunder and rain.
We was scared! ” (Golding 156) Piggy tried to tell Ralph that they do not know what they are doing that night. Piggy goes on to tell Ralph that the sins that took place are justified because of their obvious fright. On the other hand, Gene enacts vengeance on Phineas with jealousy for the cause. When Gene explains to Finney what had happens, he acts a little crazy because he knows why he did it.Finney says “’…God you were crazy when you were here’ Gene replied ‘I guess I was. I guess I must have been’” (Knowles 83). Mellard explains “Gene survives by making his accommodation to the brutal truth, by bending with the truth rather than resisting and being broken by it” (Mellard 75).
Gene realized his mistake and tried to apologize; however, he acts hysterically because of the guilt within his conscience. Gene is the one who suffers the greatest fall from innocence because he acts on jealousy and anger. Gene from A Separate Peace suffers the greatest fall from innocence.Even though Ralph from Lord of the Flies commits murder with all of the other children on the island, it is spontaneous, unlike Gene’s fall from innocence. When Gene and Phineas are in the tree preparing for the tree preparing for the double jump, Gene’s subconscious jounces the branch on which Phineas is standing, all because he is frustrated and angry with him. Even though Ralph kills an innocent friend, Gene’s fall from innocence is greater because he acts on anger, rather than a spontaneously made decision based on fear.