Archetypal Critic On John Knowles’ “A Separate Peace” Essay

1449 words - 6 pages

Carl Jung, the very first pioneer who discovered human collective unconsciousness, including archetypes, once said, “An archetype is something like an old watercourse along which the water of life flowed for a time, digging a deep channel for itself. The longer it flowed the deeper the channel, and the more likely it is that sooner or later the water will return.” An archetype is the universal patterns and behaviors that represent a typical human experience that is passed down from generations to generations, creating its originality. In “A Separate Peace”, John Knowles uses many archetypes to enrich the personality of his characters, especially Gene and Finny based on common human experiences. By embodying the archetypes of the Fall from Innocence, the Unhealable, and the Crossroads in “A Separate Peace,” John Knowles was successful in establishing the theme for the novel which implies that the guilt which is begotten from one’s deceitful actions would remain as an irrecoverable wound overtime.

The Fall from Innocence is the loss of one’s innocence, or purity as the result of maturity or newfound knowledge. Mason Cooley, an American aphorist, once said, “Innocence is thought charming because it offers many possibilities for exploitation.” It is very needless to say that innocence is a valuable shield to a person that keeps that person free from sinful acts and evil demeanors. John Knowles exploits the archetype of the Fall from Innocence to show Finny’s reaction toward Gene’s deceitful actions that were hidden behind Gene’s spurious mask. In this case, Finny is the complete innocent who has a perfect life and fantastic friends that always support him when he is needed. However, behind Finny’s “charming”, there is always someone who attempts to steal that innocence from him and push him into the world of maturity. Finny’s innocence is buried deeply under the bitterness and sorrow after he realizes the truth of his own Fall. At first, Finny did not believe in Gene who was confessing that he had “jounced” the tree branch which engendered Finny to fall off the tree. “Of course you didn’t do it. You damn fool. Sit down, you damn fool.” (70) The quote above expresses Finny’s skepticalness toward Gene as he doubtfully rejected Gene’s confession which alluded to the accident at the tree. In fact, Finny was afraid to blame Gene for his own Fall, because to Finny, Gene is a special companion who always supports Finny. “He shook his head sharply, closing his eyes, and then he turned to regard me with a handsome mask of a face. ‘I just don’t care. Never mind,’ and he started across the marble floor toward the doors.” (177) At this point when Leper told Finny and everyone in the Assembly Room the truth of Finny’s accident, Finny was aghast and speechless, because exasperation had blocked his larynx preventing him from speaking. “You get the rest of the facts, Brinker!” (177) are the last words of Finny before a chain of tragic actions occur. The...

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