"A Separate Peace" - Leper

Essay by yahooligan April 2006

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In The story "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles, a minor but vital character, Leper, reflects the impact of war on a fragile, innocent, young man. As he leaves for the war, the boys at Devon look to him as a heroic figure. Then the story takes a disappointing twist, Leper returns and brings a part of the war home with him. Youth and adolescence, interrupted and destroyed, his mind, incapable of handling and accepting the brutality of the war, becomes un-puzzled.

"You saw Leper?" Gene asks in an uncertain voice. "I saw him here this morning... Anyway... then I knew there was a real war on," Finny acknowledges. Without him knowing it, Leper takes a harsh front of the warfare and repeatedly uses it as a reminder to Finny and Gene of what's really going on. Instead of looking at the war as a glorious dedication to one's country Gene is betrayed a whole other side of it through Lepers character.

Leper, a friend the boys once knew as one of there own, innocent and fragile but human, returns insane. This serves as complete turn around in Finny's mind making the war a possibility. His train of thought changes into an outlook based on Lepers consequences of his time on the battlefront, "If the war can drive someone crazy, then it's real alright," as Finny proclaimed.

It seems that Leper had been set up to fail in the war since the beginning of the novel. He shows continuous signs of weakness and fragility under stress. When Finny pressures him to jump from the tree, he becomes frozen and can't. Then, when the ball was tossed to him in blitzball, he refuses it. Therefore, there is a sense that Leper will not make it in the war...