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about life and A Seperate Peace

     Nathan Gourley
Pd2
4/25/00


     




In John Knowles book A Separate Peace he communicates how the war in him was taking its toll on him. He uses the characters in a complicated plot to show the destructive forces of war. The characters, Gene and Finny, are the opposing forces in a struggle between the reality of war (World War II) and a separate peace. A peace away from the real war and the awful things that come from it. Through their relationship, which is a struggle on both sides, Knowles establishes the reality of war through a relationship.
     Gene Forrestor is established as the force of reality. This idea is established clearly in a speech Gene gives as the narrator of the story.
     "Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him. It is the moment when his emotions achieve their most powerful sway over him, and afterward when you say to this person " the world today" or "life" or "reality" he will assume that you mean this moment, even if it is fifty years past. The world, through his unleashed emotions, imprinted itself upon him and he carries the stamp of that passing moment forever." (Knowles, 32)
     This statement explains that Gene must have something that is his "stamp". This stamp defines an individual standing up for something he believes in. The next paragraph shows that this is true where Gene continues, "For me, this moment-four years is a moment in history-war the war. The war was and is reality for me. I still live and think in its atmosphere." (Knowles, 32) Later in the same paragraph he goes on to say:
"America is not, never has been, and never will be what the songs and poems call it, a land of plenty. Nylon, meat, gasoline, and steel are rare. There are too many jobs and not enough workers. Money is very easy to earn but rather hard to spend, because there isn't very much to buy. The war will always be fought very far away from America and it will never end. Nothing in America stands still for very long, including the people, who are always either leaving or on leave." (Knowles, 32)
This is what Gene stands for in the book A Separate Peace. Gene appears to understand the reality of war and how it affects people. Throughout the entire story Gene is used to bring the destructive reality of war into everyday life at Devon High School where there is an attempt to create and exist in a separate peace.
There is a reality known by Gene that is headed by Gene's best friend, Finny. Finny has his own reality that he creates and exists in is the separate peace spoken of earlier.
Finny who is a very athletic person, begins to create this separate peace with games. Because Finny can't face the reality of the real war, these games are a representation of the war. Finny makes the rules so that he can exist in these games as an invincible force. The first game Finny invents is "The Super Suicide of the Summer Session." This game consists of jumping of the limb of a tree into the river by Devon. As the game is invented, both Finny and Gene, agree to start it by being the first ones to jump out of the tree into a river. One time Finny allows Gene to jump out first. This is the start of a separate peace.
"We were standing on a limb, I a little farther out than Finny. I turned to say something else, some stalling remark, something to delay even a few seconds more, and then I realized that in turning I had begun to lose my balance There was a moment of total, impersonal panic, and then Finny's hand shot out and grabbed my arm, and with my balance restored, the panic immediately disappeared." (Knowles, 24)
     In this instance Finny saves Gene from falling out of Finny's world and into Gene's reality. The idea of Gene understanding that this is Finny's world comes in chapter three.
     "Yes, he had practically saved my life. He had also practically lost it for me. I wouldn't of been on that d#%* limb except for him. I wouldn't ... more

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aunt jennifer tigers

Aunt Jennifer's Tigers
By Adrienne Rich
Aunt Jennifer's tigers stride across a screen
Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.
They do not fear the men beneath the tree;
They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.

Aunt Jennifer's fingers fluttering through her wool
Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
The massive weight of uncle's wedding band
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand.

When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by
The tigers in the panel that she made
Will go on striding, proud and unafraid.



The first stanza sets the setting for Aunt Jennifer's dream world for her and her tigers (Aunt Jennifer represents all women who are caught under the oppressive hand of a patriarchal society). Aunt Jennifer's tigers represent what women desired to be like during that time period. The tigers are do not fear men and as depicted on line four are heroic and conduct themselves in a manly fashion. These confidents tigers represent everything women desire to be.

The second stanza represents the reality of Aunt Jennifer's life. She is depicted doing needlepoint, which happens to be a very traditional activity for a woman. However, she is having trouble with this activity as expressed in line 7. Her inability to do this needlepoint represents her inability to express herself in a male dominated society. This weight that rests "heavily" on her hand is not something she enjoys and is oppressing her from doing what she really wants to.

The third stanza gives us a truthful look at the reality and end of Aunt Jennifer. It re-emphasizes the impact living in this patriarchal society had had on her. Despite the tragic end of Aunt Jennifer's life these tigers and the ideas of an oppressed free life for women carry on.




What does Rich say about this poem?

"I'm startled because beneath the conscious craft are glimpses of the split I even then experienced between the girl who wrote poems, who defined herself in writing poems, and the girl who was to define herself by her relationships with men" (632).

Rich says this poem is an example of a split that took place in her earlier writing. She has written in the oppressors (male) style however, has expressed feelings of a woman not writing for a purely male audience. Rich has gotten away with expressing these ideas because she wrote using the strategy of formalism that inevitably allowed her writing to sound the same as traditional male writing.

"I wanted women poets to be equals of men, and to be equal was still confused with sounding the same" (632).

What does she intend to illustrate? How does the poem illustrate this point/s?

I believe she meant to illustrate a narrative of a woman, Aunt Jennifer, under the oppression of a male. This is illustrated in the 2nd stanza when Rich describes Aunt Jennifer's hand as being too heavy to pull the needle through the wool because of the "massive weight of Uncle's wedding band" (7, 633). This "massive weight" is man's control over his wife and the wedding band is a symbol of his control. This idea is also supported in the third stanza when Rich describes Aunt Jennifer dead being still "ringed with the ordeals she was mastered by" (9-10, 633). Overall the poem illustrates oppression by stating in the first stanza what she really desires and then describing how she is oppressed and held back by the male in her life.


"For a poem to coalesce, for a character or an action to take shape, there has to be an imaginative transformation of reality which is no way passiveMoreover, if the imagination is to transcend and transform experience it has to question, to challenge, to conceive of alternatives, perhaps to the very life you are living at that moment. You have to be free to play around with the notion that day might be night, love might be hate, nothing can be too sacred for the imagination to turn into its opposite or to call experimentally by another name. For writing is renaming" (635).

How does the poem relate to the quotation at the top of the page?

The poem relates to the quote by transforming reality. She creates ... more

about life and

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