Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Notes Number 1

Page 9: Looking back 15 years ago, the school looks newer now than it did in the past. Devon school was full of fear
Page 10: Lots of fear due to the war, houses around school look more elegant and more lifeless than ever
Page 11: On school property, white marble stairs seem exceptionally hard, most beautiful school in New England
Page 12: Also visited “the cage”, walked through mud puddles to look at a tree next to the river. Devon school was heavily focused on athletics academics.
Page 14: Flash back to 1942 to tell the story
Page 24: The boys discuss WWII with their teachers
Page 27: The boys talk and joke on their way to the tree, Devon’s property discussed in greater detail
Page 37: America as Gene sees it at age of 16 and continues to see it from living in the moment; low supplies and everyday materials, the war and all other countries seem distant and inaccessible unless you are in the military
Page 41: The boys went to the beach which is forbidden for them to go to. Sun high and bright, waves perfect for surfing
Page 42: A perfect summer’s day, sun hot, big waves, dinner at hotdog stand, walked the board walked, camped on the beach
Page 44: Finny still asleep, Gene wakes up and watches the sunrise, he describes the beauty of the moment
Page 59: Finny is taken to his hometown of Boston for rest. After the summer session and vacation time down south, Gene visits Finny in Boston, the traditional New England style home with a big fireplace.

The novel takes place at Devon School in New Hampshire, which is a boarding school for males, during World War II. Devon school is one of the most beautiful schools in the state. It is well kept and perfectly manicured.  The school also has a strong athletic and academic program, as they prepare the older boys for war. The setting is important as the novel tells a story of boys coming of age and male bonding/ friendship. The setting does not change much. The characters take a trip to the beach and back to their homes, but they end up back at Devon school. 

Page 9: Story told in first person, narrator’s name is Gene.
Page 13: introduced to Phineas aka Finny, a childhood friend who showed no fear
Page 15: Finny scaled the tree by the river and jumped over the bank into the deep water
Page 16: Finny convinces Gene who also makes the hard jump. Finny and Gene are best friends, Finny gets Gene to do things he wouldn’t normally do. Introduced to Leper who is too scared to do the jump and is a “scaredy cat” in general. Introduced to Bobby and Chet, all are a group of friends.
Page 17: Finny never stops talking, Finny and Gene play fight on their way back to dinner.
Page 18: Finny and Gene miss dinner because of the play fighting, they go to their dorm and do school work.
Page20: Introduced to teacher Mr. Prud’homme who noticed the boys were absent from dinner. Finny explains and everything is fine
Page 21: Finny relates jumping out of the tree to getting drafted and shares views on how he sees the war/tree
Page 23: Finny could get away with anything, Finny wore a pink shirt and did not get made fun of
Page 25: Finny accidently wore the school tie as a belt in front of the Masters and got away with it
Page 26: Introduced to Mr. Patch-Withers (current head of school) and his wife who are very stern, but Finny makes them laugh
Page 28: The boys decide to create a suicide society group, you have to jump out of the tree to get in
Page 29: Both Finny and Gene stand on the branch to jump. Gene almost falls but Finny catches him and pretty much saves his life
Page 31:The group met every day even though Gene didn’t feel like going all the time
Page 32: Finny always examines things
Page 33: Finny was bored in gym class so he invented “Blitzball”, a game for him and his friends to play
Page 34: Finny makes up the rules to the game as they go along
Page 35: Blitzball becomes a popular game of choice that summer. Finny loved to be the runner because the odds were against that position. Finny loves to challenge himself and has non-stop energy
Page 36: Everybody Finny meets is attracted to his personality
Page 38: Finny broke the school swimming record just to see if he could do it
Page 39: Finny doesn’t want Gene to tell anyone he broke the record
Page 40: Finny has won all the sportsmanship trophies at school in every sport. Finny wants to go to the beach
Page 48: Gene was an excellent student, Finny was an excellent athlete, Gene sets out to be the top academic student, to pass Chet.
Page 49: Finny was a poor student, Gene was decent athletically
Page 56: Introduced to school Doctor. Doctor tells Gene Finny will be able to walk again but wont be able to play sports. Gene cries for himself and for Finny.
Page 57: Gene and Finny talk for the first time since the accident, Finny believes he just slipped off the branch and is not Gene’s fault
Page 60: Gene and Finny swamp friendly stories about the past couple of months

The two main characters in this novel are best friends. Their names are Finny and Gene. Finny is the more athletic one and is naturally good at every sport. He is a quick thinker and can talk himself out of any trouble he might get himself into. Gene is somewhat athletic himself, but is stronger in the academics. Gene somewhat envies Finny’s ability to get out of any trouble and starts to become jealous of how “perfect” Finny seems. Another character introduced to us is other friends Chet and Leper. Chet is the smartest academically who Gene is competition with to become top in the class (academically). Leper is another boy who they hang out with. Leper has always been too scared to jump out of the tree. 

Page 22: Finny always gets himself into troubled situations but always finds a way out. Finne is a role model student who liked to break the rules.
Page 23: Finny could get away with anything and Gene envied that.
Page 26: After Finny escapes punishment again, Gene is kind of upset that Finny didn’t get in trouble
Page 30: After Finny stopped Gene from falling out of the tree, Gene still blames Finny for almost falling because he wouldn’t have been up there in the first place if it wasn’t for him.
Page 39: Finny broke the swimming record. Is Finny just trying to impress Gene? Gene  says to Finny, “ You’re too good to be true.”
Page 45: Gene fails test because he went to the beach with Finny instead of studying.
Page 46: Gene is striving to be head of the class and valedictorian this way he is “even” with Finny since he was won all the sports awards
Page 47: Chet is a shoe in for head of the class; Gene believes Finny is trying to wreck his studies.
Page 51: Gene and Finny get into an argument as Finny asked Gene to come to the tree and Gene wanted to study. Finny tells Gene it’s no big deal and he can stay and study
Page 52: Gene decides to go to the tree, Gene realizes there was never a rivalry between him and Finny, there is a pureness to Finny.
Page 53: Finny decides that he and Gene should jump together. On the branch, Gene shakes the tree limb and Finny falls onto the bank
Page 54: Finny’s leg is shattered, Gene is sick of hearing about it, No one accused Gene for Finny’s fall.
Page 58: Finny has this feeling that Gene shook the branch but doesn’t believe the feeling and does not accuse Gene
Page 59: Gene tries to tell Finny the truth but is interrupted by the doctor. The next day Finny was sent to Boston

The main problem in the novel up to this point is Gene’s jealously of Finny and guilt. Finny seems to be perfect in every way. The only spot Gene is better than Finny is academically.  This is when Gene starts to think that Finny is trying to destroy his grades and his studies. Gene finally figures out this was not the case after a small argument. The both of them then climb the tree to perform a double jump. Gene shakes Finny out of the tree. Finny’s leg is broken and he won’t be able to play sports again. Finny refuses the let himself believe what he felt; he felt Gene shook him out of the tree in purpose. Gene feels extremely guilty for this and goes to Finny’s home in Boston to tell him the truth.

Page 14: Only the older kids/ Draft bait were able to jump from the tree into the river. It was never done by a 16 year old. Finny wanted to try
Page 28: The boys decide to create a suicide society group, you have to jump out of the tree to get in
Page 43: Finny tells Gene you can’t just go to the beach with anyone, especially as a teen, you must go with your best friend which is what you (Gene) are.
Page 55: Gene wears Finny’s clothes and “becomes Finny”. Gene confronts himself with what he has done

The theme of the book is about boys coming of age as well as friendship and male bonding. The first theme is boys coming of age which is shown throughout the book. The boys are constantly learning who they are and who they want to become. You also get the idea of trying to fit in. This is shown when the boys create the suicide society group, a place where they feel like they belong and fit in. The other main theme of the story is male bonding and friendship. Gene and Finny have a strong bond, they are best friends. This was no more apparent than it was when they took a trip to the beach. This is also shown when Finny is in the hospital, so Gene puts on Finny’s clothes to comfort himself.

Active Reading:
                An interesting thought that I have had about the book (I share this thought with many others) is Finny being Christ like.  Gene paints Finny with Christ-like descriptions; pure heartedness, naturally skilled and charismatic. Finny falling out of the tree and breaking his leg shows us he is far from invincible and is vulnerable. At the instance of Finny’s fall, all the hate and jealously Gene possessed towards Finny is now gone. The similarities between Finny and Christ are uncanny. Christ was both powerful and vulnerable and he died so others would live; Finny leg broke, so Gene could become the person he has become today.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Critical Article Summaries

James Ellis on Innocence and Envy

            The critical view written by James Ellis shows the transition of the novel, A Separate Peace, from peace to ‘war’, as well as the darkness of the human heart. Ellis explains how the novel goes from peace innocence in the summer to a war of emotions (specifically envy) in the winter. During the summer months at school, Gene and Finny become close friends. Finny represents the innocence of the boys. Phineas turns the signs of war around them into boyish delights.  As the novel progresses, Gene’s envy of Finny grows from a small amount to a large amount. Part of Gene wants to see Finny fail. This takes us to the ‘war’ of the novel and the darkness that lies within the human heart. After building up so much hatred towards the innocence of Phineas, Gene pushes him out of a tree. Due to this act, the fall session of school starts with the absence of Finny. Gene finds that the peace there was in the summer has left with Finny. The peace that was once there has been replaced by rules. Gene is no longer himself because of his guilt. When Phineas returns to the school, Gene says that he will enlist into the army to pay for his own evil that he conflicted on Finny. After talking to Phineas about enlisting, Gene can see that Finny and he need each other. So Gene does not go to war. Finny then teaches Gene about being an athlete. Gene realizes along the way that he has become like Phineas and shares some of the innocence which Finny has within. Phineas’ life helped Gene to, “survive his fall from innocence.’ (Ellis). Having known and loved Phineas helps Gene see the good and the pureness in life. Phineas chose to see the good over the bad, because of this Gene realizes that the enemy of ‘war’ is not from without, but from within. James Ellis outlines the theme of innocence and envy within the book, as it goes from peace to war and the importance of overcoming the evil that lies within.

                      Marvin E. Mengeling on Meaning and Myth

            The critical article written by Marvin E. Mengeling shows the representation of a godly figure in Phineas. Phineas portrays God in the novel. More specifically, the Greek God Phoebus Apollo. Phoebus was young, handsome, and athletic. As well, he was a healer. Not the traditional sense of a healer, but one, “who taught the correct procedures for avoiding evil ills, superstitions, and fear.” (Mengeling). All four of these traits were shown by Phineas at some point throughout the book. As well, both believed that you should not lie, and that the truth was key to strive for harmony in life. Phineas thought that you should always win at sports, but it wasn’t about the competition. It was about doing the best you could do; the struggle within yourself; no fear and no ego.  This again shows the want of accomplishing perfect harmony in life within yourself. The Greek women had a festival called the Dionysian Festive. During this festival, women would go into the mountains and drink and dance to be reborn. In the middle of all this they would do a live sacrifice. The women would then eat their victim. This festival is a lot like the carnival described in the novel. During the carnival, the boys partied and danced away their fear. They also jumped Breaker (like a sacrifice) and stole his cider and drank it. Phineas has to die in the novel. He did. He needed to die like all gods must because it is in a gods’ nature to be in spiritual form. Another reason is that a world is no place for someone as pure and powerful as they (gods) are. When Phineas dies, he passes his spirit and code to Gene. All the negativity that was inside of Gene is now gone and replaced with friendship, loyalty and love. In a way, Phineas suffered the crippling injury so Gene would not have to. Throughout the critical essay, written by Marvin E. Mengeling, he shows the strong connection of Greek Gods and ancient Greek festivals to the character Phineas. Also he shows the relationship and symbols of how A Separate Peace and myths from ancient Greece intertwine.

James Holt McGavran on Male Bonding in the Novel

       The critical article written by James Holt McGavran tries to convince the reader that Gene and Phineas are homosexuals and are in love with one another. Although there are no physical acts of love, the boys are in love with one another but do not say it because of something called homosexual panic. The theory of homosexual panic is that a male will not admit to being a homosexual because of a fear of not being accepted. This is common for teen boys. In the novel there is no talk about the boys’ sexual orientation, but McGravran insists on the idea of the boys being gay. Some examples pulled out of the book to try and prove this point are: the mood at the carnival, they were roommates, and they would play fight. Throughout the book Gene talks about Phineas’ physical appearance and takes notice of his beauty. The night at the beach was another example of their mutual love and desire. Also Finny does not want Gene to go to war; Phineas needs Gene. Hours before Phineas’ death they share an intense, emotional conversation about Gene pushing him out of a tree. The conversation ends with Gene “offering” himself to him. Due to Finny and Gene’s special bond, McGavran believes that Gene and Finny are more than just best pals. McGavran believes that if Phineas had not died, they would have ended up participating in sexual relations. James Holt McGraven reads deep in between the lines in order to try and convince the reader that Gene and Phineas are homosexuals and in love with one another.