Friendship is certainly a major theme throughout the novel. It is often based on a mutual need, and many people seek friends to fill breaches in there own lives. A perfect example is when Gene, who seems to be insecure about himself, is drawn to Finny’s confidence and love for life. Their friendship was peculiar because they were opposite in many respects. For instance, Gene was always concerned with his schoolwork. He seemed to be studying at almost every free moment he had.
On the other hand, Finny was a natural athlete and schoolwork was not his top priority. Their friendship perplexed the boys and the readers as no one could entirely understand what the attraction was. Even though it seemed like a strange and complicated friendship, Finny and Gene developed a strong bond. Unfortunately a strong bond could not withstand Gene’s insecurities, as he faltered in Finny’s unknown pressures of conforming. Another important theme is conformity. Conformity refers to the choices young people make regarding going along with the crowd and pursuing their own paths.
They can either give in to peer pressure or be secure with their own individuality. Gene succumbs to peer pressure the first time he jumps off the limb into the Devon River. Even though he would have rather not done it, he went along with the crowd to fit in. Another example of Gene trying to fit in and be liked is when he ditches school with Finny. Gene never would have considered breaking the rules, but he feared that he would not be accepted by Finny if he didn’t go along.
Most teenagers are confronted with peer pressure, and like Gene will at one time or another go against their true feelings. Normally these mistakes turn into life long lessons in which a person realizes that it is better to be true to yourself. Making decisions that you feel good about, rather than conforming, is a sign of a mature individual. As the story progresses, Gene learns to listen to himself rather than others. His maturing process also includes the fact that he has to face reality and acknowledge that he is not as great as Finny.
Gene is his own individual person and Finny is not as perfect as Gene thought. Gene considered enlisting because that was what all the other boys seemed to be doing, but instead he chose to do what he thought was right. He would be loyal to his best friend Finny. Fifteen years later Gene was able to terminate his perennial guilt and forgive himself. Gene had finally matured from an insecure child to a self-accepting adult. Each theme in A Separate Peace by John Knowles has a major impact on the reader.
All teens experience the good and bad elements of friendship, conformity, and growing up. This novel helps us all realize that accepting yourself and being true to your friends is essential for becoming a mature adult. .