Seperate peaceresponsibility Essay

This essay has a total of 969 words and 5 pages.


Seperate peaceresponsibility





A Separate Peace: Responsibility
A responsibility is something for which one is held accountable. Often people say that
one is responsible for one’s own words and actions; if something happens as a result
of something one does one is responsible for it. But is it possible that something could
be the result of various actions from different people who are therefore equally
responsible, or is there always one person who is most responsible for the incident at
hand? Such a situation where this question is relevant is present in the novel A Separate
Peace by John Knowles. In the novel, the main character, Gene, ponders his responsibility
for the death of his best friend, Phineas or Finny. After reading Gene’s account of
the events that led to Finny’s death the reader may observe that there are three
people who are all partially at fault for Finny’s death. Gene, a classmate named
Brinker, and Phineas all had something to do with the incident, but who was most
responsible for it?

Gene is probably the most obvious to blame for part of Phineas’ death. Gene clearly
feels guilty, that is why he returns to the tree fifteen years after the fact, for some
sort of closure. As Gene and Finny were about to jump from a tree branch into the river
together, Gene shook the branch causing Phineas to fall into the river unexpectedly and
hurt his leg. Later on, when Phineas re-injured his leg and was having it set in a routine
operation, he passed away. The doctor said that it was probably because some marrow
entered his blood stream and caused his heart to stop. But if Finny had never fallen in
the first place he would have not been on that operating table. Therefore, indirectly an
action of Genes eventually resulted in Finny’s death. But was this action done
consciously? The author does not specify. “My knees were bent and I jounced the
limb”(Knowles p.52) says Gene in his account of the incident. “I
jounced” is an active verb but “were bent” is passive meaning that some
unknown force bent Gene’s knees and as a result of that he jounced the limb. Since
this action was not totally Gene’s he is not thus totally responsible for the fall
or the events that occurred as a result of it.

Brinker, Gene and Finny’s classmate was responsible for the circumstances that lead
to Phineas’ second fall. Brinker suspected that Gene was responsible for
Finny’s first fall and begrudged him somewhat for not enlisting in the army with him
when he had wanted to. It was Brinker who called together the trial in which Gene was
prosecuted for purposely causing Finny to fall off the tree. But even if Gene was to blame
for Finny’s first fall, it was not necessary to drag Finny out of bed in the middle
of the night and put him through such emotional turmoil when he was still physically
vulnerable from the accident. If Brinker had not organized the trial Finny would have
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