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Buchanan 1 Gwendolyn Buchanan Ms.

Emmette English 09 Honors 21 August 2009 Truth versus Lies: The Nature of the Battle Truth makes up a substantial part of our society, but unfortunately so do lies. While truth is certainly the right way to deal with anything, although many would contest that, lies are often easier. That conflict is illustrated in many books, especially John Knowles most famous novel, A Separate Peace. In A Separate Peace, the characters Leper, Gene, and Finny clearly show the dichotomy between truth and falsehood. Leper was a peaceful, nature-loving boy until he saw war propaganda and decided to enlist in World War II. Although he did not know it, he actually lied to himself when he thought that the war would be fun. Leper also refuses to tell the truth to people about the condition of his sanity, by avoiding a Section Eight Discharge. Admittedly he might have good reason to avoid it, though, for as he says, They give you a Section Eight Discharge . . . You cant get a job after that (Knowles 144). But, that still does not change the lie. Related to that is the lie that Leper tells about his sanity. By avoiding that discharge, he leads people to believe that he is still sane. As much as Leper lies, however, there is one very important time when he does tell the truth. That incident is when Leper tells many of the students the truth about Finnys accident. First, he tells Gene that he knows when he says to him, Like that time you knocked Finny out of the tree . . . like that time you crippled him for life (145). Later, he tells Brinker about the accident in front of many other students when they are holding a mock trial for Gene.

Buchanan 2 No, Leper doesnt always tell the truth. But then, neither does Gene, another important character in A Separate Peace. In fact, Gene starts right off lying as soon as he gets to Devon, with merely some pictures hung up over his bed. The pictures were of southern mansions and cotton plantations in Georgia, and by hanging these pictures up he hoped to mislead people who saw it into believing that he was from Georgia and that these were pictures of his house. The second lie that Gene tells is slightly more serious than the lie about his hometown. He tells lies to his friends about Finnys accident. At first, of course, he just simply does not tell anyone about what happened. But later, when Brinker takes him down to the Butt Room, he tells outright lies to everyone there. He says to them, Well, first I stole all his money, then I found out that he cheated on his entrance test to Devon and I blackmailed his parents about that (90). Another slightly serious lie that Gene tells is to himself and Finny about the 1944 Olympics. Although Gene knew that they would not take place because of the war, he led himself and Finny along while he was training for them. Were grooming you for the Olympics, pal . . . There was no harm in taking aim, even if the target was a dream (117) is Finnys demand and Genes acceptance of that demand. Unquestionably, though, the most

continuous and most serious lie that Gene tells is about his friendship, or rather lack of friendship, with Finny. Early on in the book, Gene begins to think that Finny is plotting against him to ruin his grades. Gene starts to believe that the only reason that Finny is nice to him is because Finny is trying to distract him from school, because supposedly Finny cant stand for anyone to be better than himself. Consequently, Gene begins to hate Finny and begins to be more determined than ever to do good work at school. He still behaves towards Finny like they are friends, however.

Buchanan 3 While Gene is busy deceiving others, Finny is indulging in some deceptions of his own. One of these is his refusal to believe that there are losers in sports. According to Gene, Finny believes that When you played a game you won, in the same way as when you sat down to a meal you ate it (35). The second of his lies to himself, a little more serious, is that Finny refuses to believe in the war. This lie is more serious because Finny insists that Gene share his disbelief, and Gene actually finds himself slipping into actually believing Finnys view more than once. Finny thinks that the war is all a made-up show to keep teenagers in their placesSo for us in the forties theyve cooked up this war fake (116). This, as it turns out, is a lie that he knows is a lie, even as he speaks it to himself and others. He was saying that the war was a fake because he had tried to enlist and hadnt been able to because of the accident. In his words, Until I got a letter from Ottawa or Chunking or some place saying Yes, you can enlist with us . . . then there would have been a war (190). But lastly, his belief in Genes friendship is the most serious delusion of all. Even though Gene secretly hates Finny, Finny continues to believe that he and Gene are friends. Finny believes that he and Gene are best pals. After all, why wouldnt they be? So, in just a short period of time, Finny ruins his life with a web of deception of his own making. Thus these characters, Leper, Gene, and Finny, show the difference between truth and falsehood as they either choose to do what is right or choose to lie and therefore entangle themselves yet more. The people around them as well as themselves would have benefited from truth. Maybe that is true for us, as well. Society as a whole might very well benefit from a little more truth.

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