Denial, and acceptance, these words are intertwined with innocence, and the loss of said innocence. In order for one to mature one has to accept the truth and make necessary adjustments. The people who deny the truth don’t experience the “fall from innocence” and may be blind to the things going on around them. If the innocent chooses to accept the truth the characters “evolves” and falls from innocence. If a character chooses to deny the truth it will take a toll on the character mentally, or physically.
In A Separate Peace, John Knowles uses the archetype of the Fall from Innocence in order to illustrate Leper’s philosophy, “Everything has to evolve or else it perishes. ” He demonstrates this theme through the characters of Leper, Finny, and Gene. Gene is a character in the book who loses his innocence. Gene is smart young man attending attending Devon school. He is best friend’s with Finny. Gene is always competing with Finny, most of the time Finny doesn’t realize this. Finny is oblivious to many of the things going around him and is always happy. Finny’s attitude and the way he carries himself frustrate Gene.
Finny is “perfect” and nothing ever seems to go wrong in Finny’s life. Gene becomes jealous of Finny and begins to resent Finny for trying to sabotage his academics. These feelings of jealousy eventually cause Gene to push Finny off the tree. Gene tries to preserve his innocence by attempting to convince himself that he was not responsible for the fall and that it must have mysteriously happened. The fall shattered Finny’s legs. Deep down Gene knew that he was responsible for Finny’s fall. This experience was traumatizing for Gene. Gene would have to deal with the fact that HE was responsible for Finny not being able to do anything he loved.
Gene was responsible for Finny not being able to be in the Olympics, not being able to enlist, and causing Finny to eventually lose his innocence. Gene was directly responsible for his best friend’s problems and he couldn’t ignore it. Gene chose not to enlist to stay with Finny, he chose to train for the Olympics for Finny, he probably would have done more if he had to. Gene did these to protect his innocence, and make himself feel better. He did not want to believe he was responsible and was trying to make up for the fall by doing these. After the fallt things don’t get better for Gene.
It isn’t until Leper’s testimony that he must accept what he has done. When Leper confirms that it was not an accident and that Gene was responsible for breaking his best friend’s legs Gene can no longer pretend that everything is fine. Everyone including Finny knew that Gene was responsible. Gene could no longer act like he did not do it. Gene had to cope with his actions and their consequences. Accepting his actions are what lead to Gene losing his innocence. Finny is an example of the Innocent archetype, who “perishes” when he denies the truth.
Finny is a prime example of the innocent, he seeks safety, he is naive and doesn’t understand or want to understand the evils of the world. Finny’s loss comes at the hands of his best friend Gene. Finny’s fall begins when he and Gene decide to jump off the tree and Finny falls off the tree. Finny is an exceptional athlete and has jumped off the tree many times. In his mind nothing like this could ever happen, he’s done things like this many times before, and has done them well. Falling off the tree could have never been his fault and he knew that. That is why he looked at Gene with “extreme interest” as he fell.
Somewhere in his mind he felt that Gene could have been responsible for this but he didn’t want to believe this and chose not to. He could not believe that his best friend could have pushed him off the tree which led could have led to things for more severe than broken legs. When Gene tells Finny that he was responsible for his fall Finny continues to deny this and even apologizes for thinking Gene could have been responsible. Later on in the book when Brinker tries to find the truth about the fall and Finny has no choice but to accept the truth he continues to deny it.
Rather than hearing all of the truth, that Gene was responsible for his fall, which would destroy his world he decides to leave the presence of everyone else. Finny’s suspicions were right but he, the innocent boy, can’t accept that anybody would be cruel enough to push him off the tree. As he takes the stairs to leave, he slips and falls. This fall would later be the cause of his death. Finny refuses to grow up, and accept the events taking place in his life, regardless of the evidence that shows his perfect world has many imperfections. His clouded judgement and refusal to accept the truth and evolve eventually leads to his death.
Leper’s loss is portrayed through his insanity. Leper was once a sane, quiet boy who was interested in skiing, and went to school with Gene, and Finny. One day Leper found out that the army had skiing patrol and his passion for skiing lead to him enlisting in the army. Leper’s decision to enlist in the army was not influenced by the possible consequences and responsibilities of the war but by his passion to ski. Leper was not aware of the reality of the war, and what was going to happen once he enlisted. His innocence led him to believe that nothing bad could come from the war and he would only be skiing.
Once he faced the reality of the war Leper could not handle it. The traumatic experiences from the war led to his insanity and him leaving the war. Leper was a timid, innocent boy who had not been exposed to the horrors of the real world and the war. Once he enlisted he had to face a world that he could not handle, his innocence was lost. In A Separate Peace three boys, Finny, Gene, and Leper all experience a “Fall from Innocence. ” The three characters have to deal with circumstances they have never dealt with before. Not prepared to handle these events they experience a “Fall from Innocence. ”
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