In all human life, every person has or will experience being a child, growing up, making mistakes, realizing those mistakes, and becoming an adult. This process demonstrates adulthood or lack of in a person. In literature, when a character goes from immaturity to adulthood is called a coming-of-age. This literary storyline is composed of four main parts: immaturity, False adulthood, a rite of passage, and finally adulthood. In John Knowle’s written piece, A Separate Peace, Gene Forrester is a kid who is going through high school during 1942, the year when World War II was taking place.
He is also a close follower of Finny. Certain events that take place in Devon, the school that Gene and Finny attend, and rumors about the war and its effect on people force Gene to change from the beginning of the novel compared to the end.
At the beginning of the book, Gene shows several characteristics of immaturity. One of the earliest examples of this trait is when Gene lies about his height to Finny.
Gene says he is five feet and nine inches. Finny corrects him and says, ‘No, you’re the same height I am,’ (Knowles x). When Gene lies about his height, it shows that he needs to be better than Finny. The essential emotion that makes Gene immature is his jealousy towards Finny. Finny is a good likable kid who doesn’t intend any harm. Because Finny is good at athletics and talking himself out of trouble, Gene feels like a lesser follower rather than a friend to Finny.
So gradually, Gene develops a conscious rivalry between him and Finny. The buildup of emotions causes Gene to make an erratic choice and jounce the branch.
This example shows how Gene manages to take a friend, make an enemy out of him, and then break him. After jouncing the branch, Gene says, ‘I jumped into the river, every trace of my fear of this forgotten.’ (Knowles, x). In doing this harmful and selfish act to Finny, Gene loses his envy towards Finny. The next crucial part of Gene’s coming of age is training for the Olympics. After Finny comes back with his shattered leg, he confesses to Gene that he was training for the Olympics. Gene tells Finny 1944 Olympics won’t happen because of the war. Finny tells Gene that there is no war and he will train Gene.
Gene is hesitant at first but thinks to himself, ‘And not believing him, not forgetting that troops were being shuttled toward battlefields all over the world, I went along, as I always did.’ (Knowles x). Gene understand s that his friend’s dreams are gone, so he does it to make Finny happy. Soon after, Gene says, ‘There was no harm in taking aim, even if the target was a dream.’ In addition to just making Finny feel better, Gene realizes there is no other purpose for exercising. He still does it. This is a selfless action that Gene does compare to his earlier selfish choice to harm Finny. The training of the Olympics shows Gene’s gradual maturity. The final stage of Gene’s coming of age story is with the death of Finny.