Algonkian Essay

This essay has a total of 1774 words and 7 pages.


Although many similarities exist between A Turn with the Sun and A Separate Peace, both
written by John Knowles, the works are more dissimilar than alike. A Separate Peace is a
novel about the struggle of a senior class in the face of World War II, and it focuses on
two best friends, Gene Forrester and Phineas. A Turn with the Sun is about a young man
who struggles to fit in as a freshman in the closed microcosm of a senior dominated school
who struggles, vainly, to make a name for himself.

Knowles wrote A Turn with the Sun in the third person. His character, Lawrence is trying
to make a name for himself as an underclassman. He suffers from a poor self image, as
"Lawrence sensed once again that he was helplessly sliding back, into the foggy social
bottom-land where unacceptable first-year boys dwell." (A Turn with the Sun:12) He sees
his achievements and failures as analogous to his worth as a person. He feels that he is
a failure, yet is thankful that, "...the hockey captain had never invaded his room, as he
had Fruitcake Putsby's next door, and festooned his clothes through the hall; he had never
found a mixture of sour cream and cereal in his bed at night, no one had ever poured ink
into the tub while he was bathing. The victims of such violations were genuine outcasts."
(A Turn with the Sun: 12) The other boys see Lawrence as an annoyance rather than an
exile, while he feels that he is better than the other boys at Devon. This is reinforced
when he thinks, "When he plunged from the railing he had been just another of the unknown
new boys, but when he broke the surface of the water in that remarkable dive, one that he
had never attempted before and was never to repeat, he became for his schoolmates a boy to
be considered." (ATurn with the Sun:13) The dive serves as an inauguration into the
school's social system. It is symbolic of risk, achievement and imperfection; it brings
together the gap between the river, which represents the unknown, and the bridge one
stands on, the tangible world where the boys feel secure. Lawrence, like Leper who will
be discussed later, "...merely inhabited the nether world of the unregarded, where no one
bothered him or bothered about him." (A Turn with the Sun:13). Lawrence is not in fact so
much despised as viewed with disdain.

Lawrence wishes both to fit in and have his schoolmates admire him as an individual. This
desire leads to his death, " the river which winds between the playing fields." (A
Turn with the Sun:28) Knowles foreshadows Lawrence's demise when, "He had felt he was
still in the air as he walked from the gym back to his room that afternoon, still spinning
down upon his own bright image in the murky water."(A Turn with the Sun) Knowles uses the
word "bright" to convey the sense of hope Lawrence has for the future, and represent his
potential for a bright future. Unfortunately, the water is "murky" which points out that
the future Lawrence is jumping into is an ambiguous one. Inadequacy, failure, and death,
are all possibilities in the murky waters of his future, hidden by his bright image and

They play down Lawrence's death at the end, "I don't think he cared," Bruce remarked
suddenly. The headmaster straightened sharply. "What do you mean?" Bruce's thoughts
doubled over this instinctive statement, to censor it or deny it..." (A Turn with the
Sun:30) Not well liked, "...he marveled again at his own failure, after seven months, to
win a single close friend." (A Turn with the Sun:12), Lawrence is quickly transformed from
someone they reproach, "...he threw his small steamer trunk, filled with shoes and books,
down the long flight of stairs under which the housemaster lived...they concluded that he
was strange." (A Turn with the Sun:20) to someone they have forgotten.

A Separate Peace is a confession in retrospective from the first person point of view of
Gene, one of the two main characters. (Barron) It is the story of Gene and Finny, two
opposite friends who are approaching graduation and the high probability that they will be
sent to war. Phineas is a risk taker who shrugs off the rules at the first opportunity,
"Phineas didn't really dislike West Point in particular or authority in general, but just
considered authority the necessary evil against which happiness was achieved by reaction,
the backboard which returned all the insults he threw at it." (A Separate Peace: 11)
Because of his manipulative personality, Phineas is able to get away with many things
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