A Separate Peace an Examination of Gene's Insecurity
Uploaded by UnderArch on Jan 25, 2007
A Separate Peace: An Internal War
“A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealously is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity.” This quote from Robert A. Heinlein pretty well sums up a basic staple of teenage emotion, insecurity. A Separate Peace by John Knowles is a book that takes place in a prestigious New England boarding school, a place where insecurity and teenage insecurity are as prevalent as in any other place where groups of adolescents live their lives. The main character of this novel, Gene, clearly is an individual who questions his own self worth.
Throughout the novel Gene, the narrator, makes a few inward, and to at least this reader, awkward comments concerning the anatomy of his classmates. He appears to be admiring them, and, in fact, it is obvious he is, but I don’t suspect this is because he is aroused. I think rather that this can viewed as evidence of feelings of physical inadequacy. He is sizing himself up to these other boys and subconsciously noting how their features compare to his own. There are other occasions in the book at which Gene voices to himself feelings of inadequacy and this is likely just another that the author decided to be more subtle, although this particular aspect of the story is quite open for interpretation.
Another element of the story which illustrates Gene’s low self-esteem is his introversion. People who have high self-esteem, for the most part, are talkative extroverts. Throughout the book Gene doesn’t often outwardly voice his feels and concerns, and frequently allows others to make his decisions for him. Finny, before his fall, easily manipulated Gene and guilted him into doing things which he did not want to do. He didn’t allow Finny to do this necessarily because he was too weak of character for him to act on his own, but because he didn’t have the assertiveness and confidence necessary to allow himself to do so.
The final and most evident item in this story that speaks to Gene’s insecurity is the rivalry he created in his head with his friend Finny. Gene stacks his achievements alongside Finny’s and, in his head, creates a complicated rivalry; this is something that only an insecure person would do. He lives his life not for the joy of the action contained therein, but rather in hope of gaining happiness from superiority. Even when he...