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The Significant Passages Of A Separate Peace English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 5009 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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“I think it’s about time we started to get a little exercise around here, don’t you?” he said, cocking his head at me. Then we slowly looked around at the others with the expression of dazed determination he used when the object was to carry people along with his latest idea. He blinked twice, and then said, “We can always start with this ball.”

“Let’s make it have something to do with the war,” suggested Bobby Zane. “Like a blitzkrieg or something.”

“Blitzkrieg,” repeated Finny doubtfully.

“We could figure out some kind of blitzkrieg baseball,” I said.

“We’ll call it blitzkrieg ball,” said Bobby.

“Or just blitzball,” reflected Finny. “Yes, blitzball.” Then, with an expectant glance around, “Well, let’s get started,” he threw the big, heavy ball at me. I grasped it against my chest with both arms. “Well, run!” ordered Finny. “No, not that way! Toward the river! Run!” I headed toward the river surrounded by the others in a hesitant herd; they sensed that in all probability they were my adversaries in blitzball. “Don’t hot it!” Finny yelled. “Throw it to somebody else. Otherwise, naturally,” he talked steadily as he ran along beside me, “now that we’ve got you surrounded, one of us will knock you down.”

“Do what!” I veered away from him, hanging on to the clumsy ball. “What kind of a game is that?”

“Blitzball!” Chet Douglass shouted, throwing himself around my legs, knocking me down.

“That naturally was completely illegal,” said Finny. You don’t use your arms when you knock the ball carrier down.”

“You don’t?” mumbled Chet from on top of me.

“No. You keep your arms crossed like this on your chest, and you just butt the ball carrier. No elbowing allowed either. All right, Gene, start again.”

“I began quickly, “Wouldn’t somebody else have possession of the ball after-“

“Not when you’ve been knocked down illegally. The ball carrier retains possession in a case like that. So it’s perfectly okay, you still have the ball. Go ahead.”

There was nothing to do but start running again, with the others trampling with stronger will around me. “Throw it!” ordered Phineas. Bobby Zane was more or less in the clear and so I threw it at him; it was so heavy that he had to scoop my throw up from the ground. “Perfectly okay,” commented Finny, running forward at top speed, “perfectly okay for the ball to touch the ground when it is being passed.” Bobby doubled back closer to me.

“Knock him down! Are you crazy? He’s on my team!”

“There aren’t any teams in blitzball,” he yelled somewhat irritably, “we’re all enemies. Knock him down!”

“I knocked him down. “All right,” said Finny as he disentangled us. “Now you have possession again.” He handed the leaden ball to me.

“I would have though that possession passed-“

“Naturally you gained possession of the ball when you knocked him down. Run.”

So I began running again. Leper Lepellier was loping along outside my perimeter, not noticing the game, tagging along without reason, like a porpoise escorting a passing ship. “Leper!” I threw the ball past a few heads at him.

“Taken by surprise, Leper looked up in anguish, shrank away from the ball, and voiced his first thought, a typical one. “I don’t want it!”

“Stop, stop!” cried Finny in a referee’s tone. Everybody halted, and Finny retrieved the ball; he talked better holding it. “Now Leper has just brought out a really important fine point of the game. The receiver can refuse a pass if he happens to choose to. Since we’re all enemies, we can and will turn on each other all the time. We call that the Lepellier Refusal.” We all nodded without speaking. “Here, Gene, the ball is of course still yours.”

“Still mine? Nobody else has had the ball but me, for God sakes!”

“They’ll get their chance. Now if you are refused three times in the course of running from the tower to the river, you go all the way back to the tower and start over. Naturally.”


Blitzball comes as another physical form of the apparent anarchy in Finny’s personality. In fact, that is the reason this expert was chosen – to point out one of Finny’s attributes. With the invention of the game, Finny defies Devon authority and creates his own game to play, instead of the school-wide badminton. As the game unravels, blitzball seems to revolve mostly around Gene getting hit with a medicine ball and repeatedly tackled by the other players, called “enemies.” Meanwhile, Finny excels at his own game, because he plays the game the same way he plays life. It also appears that Finny invented the game of blitzball as an attempt to maintain the “separate peaces” between sports and war. The other characters seem to connect sports and war into one, but he doesn’t want to because he doesn’t understand the concept of an enemy in many ways.

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Along with the above reasons, blitzball also highlights Finny’s beliefs on what sports are how they’re supposed to be played: not one team put against another, but the physical challenge that one person overcomes (Gene in this case). This game is also one of the major events building in Gene’s inner conflict-his jealousy and resentment toward Finny. It’s obvious that even in the moments where the two boys are closest that Gene seems to find himself threatened by Finny whether it is by his athletic ability, natural grace, rebelliousness, or innocence. Gene seems to always notice that Finny is better than him at something, which could hurt their friendship later.

Chapter 8, page 115-116:

“Have you swallowed all that war stuff?”

“No, of course I-” I was so committed to refuting him that I had half-denied the charge before I understood it; now my eyes swung back to his face. “All what war stuff?”

“All that stuff about there being a war.”

“I don’t think I get what you mean.”

“Do you really think that the United States of America is in a state of war with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan?”

“Do I really think…” My voice trailed off.

He stood up, his weight on the good leg, the other resting lightly on the floor in front of him. “Don’t be a sap,” he gazed with cool self-possession at me, “there isn’t any war.”

“I know why you’re talking like this,” I said, struggling to keep up with him. “Now I understand. You’re still under the influence of some medicinal drug.”

“No, you are. Everybody is.” He pivoted so that he was facing directly at me. “That’s what this whole war story is. A medicinal drug. Listen, did you ever hear of the ‘Roaring Twenties’?” I nodded very slowly and cautiously. “When they all drank bathtub gin and everybody who was young did just what they wanted?”


“Well what happened was that they didn’t like that, the preachers and the old ladies and all the stuffed shirts. So then they tried Prohibition and everybody just got drunker, so then they really got desperate and arranged the Depression. That kept the people who were young in the thirties in their places. But they couldn’t use that trick forever, so for us in the forties they’ve cooked up this war fake.”

“Who are ‘they,’ anyway?”

“The fat old men who don’t want us crowding them of their jobs. They’ve made it all up. There isn’t any real food shortage, for instance. The men have all the best steaks delivered to their clubs now. You’ve noticed how they’ve been getting fatter lately, haven’t you?”

His tone took it thoroughly for granted that I had. For a moment I was almost taken in by it. Then my eyes fell on the bound and cast white mass pointing at me, and as it was always to do, it brought me down out of Finny’s world of invention, down again as I had fallen after awakening that morning, down to reality, to the facts.

“Phineas, this is all pretty amusing and everything, but I hope you don’t play this game too much with yourself. You might start to believe it and then I’d have to make a reservation for you at the Funny Farm.”

“In a way,” deep in argument, his eyes never wavered from mine, “the whole world is on a Funny Farm now. But it’s only the fat old men who get the joke.”

“And you.”

“Yes, and me.”

“What makes you so special? Why should you get it and all the rest of us be in the dark?”

The momentum of the argument abruptly broke from his control. His face froze. “Because I’ve suffered,” he burst out.


The novel has painted a clear picture that Finny is self-absorbed (take Finny’s coaching Gene more for his own sake than for Gene’s as an example). So, Finny’s motivation to label the war as a hoax are obvious. Everybody who attends Devon School is expected to enlist in the military. Finny knows that the day will soon come when everybody goes off to war – except for Finny, who has a broken leg. He feels that his injury has separated him from having the same experiences that his classmates have; thus “a separate peace” (reference to the title and reason this passage was chosen). So, Finny thinks that if the war can’t be a part of his life, it can’t be a part of his peer’s lives either. So when Gene takes Finny’s “explanation” for the war as a joke, it upsets him and causes him to lash out at the others.

What Finny doesn’t realize is that the theory he created is a lot like his own problem. He is similar to the fat old men, making up different things to keep the younger people in their places and allow the older men to keep their jobs. They changed the problem every decade because they got more desperate as the years went by. But now Finny is desperate; all of his classmates will go to war and leave him behind, just as the old men are afraid they will be left behind if the young people aren’t in their places, so, he tried to fabricate something; just as the old men did.

Chapter 12, page 190-191:

“I’ll hate it everywhere if I’m not in this war! Why do you think I kept saying there wasn’t any war all winter? I was going to keep on saying it until two seconds after I got a letter from Ottawa or Chungking or someplace saying, ‘Yes, you can enlist with us.’ ” A look of pleased achievement flickered over his face momentarily, as though he had really gotten such a letter. “Then there would have been a war.”

“Finny,” my voice broke but I went on, “Phineas, you wouldn’t be any good in the war, even if nothing had happened to your leg.”

A look of amazement fell over him. It scared me, but I knew what I said was important and right, and my voice fou8nd that full tone voiced have when they are expressing something long-felt and long-understood and released at last. “They’d get you some place at the front and there’d be a lull in the fighting, and the next thing anyone knew you’d be over with the Germans or the Japs, asking if they’d like to field a baseball team against our side. You’d be sitting in one of their command posts, teaching them English. Yes, you’d get confused and borrow one of their uniforms, and you’d lend them one of yours. Sure, that’s just what would happen. You’d get things so scrambled up nobody would know who to fight any more. You’d make a mess, a terrible mess, Finny, out of the war.

His face had been struggling to stay calm as he listened to me, but now he was crying but trying to control himself. “It was just some kind of blind impulse you had in the tree there, you didn’t know what you were doing. Was that it?”

“Yes, yes, that was it. Oh that was it, but how can you believe that? How can you believe that? I can’t even make myself pretend that you could believe that.”

“I do, I think I can believe that. I’ve gotten awfully mad sometimes and almost forgotten what I was doing. I think I believe you, I think I can believe that. Then that was it. Something just seized you. It wasn’t anything you really felt against me, it wasn’t some kind of hat you’ve felt all along. It wasn’t anything personal.”

“No, I don’t know how to show you, how can I show you, Finny? Tell me how to show you. It was just some ignorance inside me, some crazy thing inside me, something blind, that’s all it was.”

He was nodding his head, his jaw tightening and his eyes closed on the tears. “I believe you. It’s okay because I understand and I believe you. You’ve already shown me and I believe you.”


The beginning of this excerpt points out Finny’s intentions of making the entire war sound like a hoax: It would remain fake to him until he was accepted into a military service. This proves my earlier response true, and furthermore explains how desperate Finny was, by applying nearly everywhere possible. Gene also points out that sports is all Finny knows, and he would try to combine them with the war and mess everything up. Surprisingly, Finny didn’t deny this, but instead changed the subject to his fall.

Gene’s openness to Finny that night challenged him to return trust to his friend. Gene’s guilt had always been in question, and Gene’s two earlier attempts to admit his guilt ended badly. However, his current attitude allowed the subject to come out without the anger previously there. Without even asking “Did you make me fall?” or “Why did you make me fall?” he offers his trust, only carefully asking if Gene acted out of a “blind impulse.” This was more of an offer of an explanation, instead of a demand for one.

Gene accepted the question gratefully, adding that it must have derived from some “ignorance inside.” This agreement brought back the boys’ friendship.

Logan Saucer


English 1 Pre-IB/5th Period

August 16, 2010

Significant Passages of To Kill a Mockingbird

Chapter 9, page 85 – 87:

“Do you defend niggers, Atticus?” I asked him that evening.

“Of course I do. Don’t say nigger, Scout. That’s common.”

” ‘s what everybody at school says.”

“From now on it’ll be everybody less one-“

“Well if you don’t want me to grow up talkin’ that way, why do you send me to school?”

My father looked at me mildly, amusement in his eyes. Despite our compromise, my campaign to avoid school had continued to one form or another since my first day’s dose of it: the beginning of last September had brought on sinking spells, dizziness, and mild gastric complaints. I went so far as to pay a nickel for the privilege of rubbing my head against the head of Miss Rachel’s cook’s son, who was afflicted with a tremendous ringworm. It didn’t take.

But I was worrying another bone. “Do all lawyers defend n-Negroes, Atticus?”

“Of course they do, Scout.”

“Then why did Cecil say you defended niggers? He made it sound like you were runnin’ a still.”

Atticus sighed. “I’m simply defending a Negro-his name’s Tom Robinson. He lives in that little settlement beyond the town dump. He’s a member of Calpurnia’s church, and Cal knows his family well. She says they’re clean-living folks. Scout, you aren’t old enough to understand some things yet, but there’s been some high talk around town to the effect that I shouldn’t do much about defending this man. It’s a peculiar case-it won’t come to trial until summer session. John Taylor was kind enough to give us a postponement…”

“If you shouldn’t be defendin’ him, then why are you doin’ it?”

“For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.”

“You mean if you didn’t defend that man, Jem and me wouldn’t have to mind you anymore?”

“That’s about right.”


“Because I could never ask you to mind me again. Scout, simply by the nature of the work, every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one’s mine, I guess. You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but do one thing for me if you will: you just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ’em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change…it’s a good one, even if it does resist learning.”

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This excerpt was chosen to highlight the first time for an adult situation, such as racism, to come into Scout’s life. Because Robinson is a black man accused of raping a white woman, the residents of Maycomb are upset that Atticus, who is the town’s “chief” lawyer, would help him. The townspeople are so outgaged, that they can’t to direct their anger to just Atticus, however, as Scout and Jem have become targets as well as the racist roots of the south expose themselves (this contradicts how the people of Maycomb have been portrayed before, who have been described mostly positively.) This hate toward the family forces Scout to try to understand adult situations as she confronts her father about it.

Even members of Atticus’s own family, Alexandra and her grandson, disagree with his decision to defend Tom Robinson. The conflict also reveals Atticus’s parenting style, focusing on teaching moral values in Jem and Scout; most important being justice and honesty. He tells his children to avoid getting in fights, even if they’re talked to badly, and to try “quiet courage” instead. I think this means that he wants them to stay silent, but strong.

Chapter 18, page 204 – 205:

Mayella sat silently.

“Where were you at dusk on that evening?” began Mr. Gilmer patiently.

“On the porch.”

“Which porch?”

“Ain’t but one, the front porch.”

“What were you doing on the porch?”


Judge Taylor said, “Just tell us what happened. You can do that, can’t you?”

Mayella stared at him and burst into tears. She covered her mouth with her hands and sobbed. Judge Taylor let her cry for a while, then he said, “that’s enough now. Don’t be ‘fraid of anybody here, as long as you tell the truth. All this is strange to you, I know, but you’ve nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to fear. What are you scared of?”

Mayella said something behind her hands. “What was that?” asked the judge.

“Him,” she sobbed, pointing at Atticus.

“Mr. Finch?”

She nodded vigorously, saying, “Don’t want him doin’ me like he done Papa, tryin’ to make him out left-handed…”

Judge Taylor scratched his thick white hair. It was plain that he had never been confronted with a problem of this kind. “How old are you?” he asked.

“Nineteen-and-a-half,” Mayella said.

“Judge Taylor cleared his throat and tried unsuccessfully to speak in soothing tones. “Mr. Finch has no idea of scaring you,” he growled, “and if he did, I’m here to stop him. That’s one thing I’m sitting up here for. Now you’re a big girl, so you just sit up straight and tell the-tell us what happened to you. You can do that, can’t you?”

I whispered to Jem, “Has she got good sense?”

Jem was squinting down at the witness stand. “Can’t tell yet,” he said. She’s got enough sense to get the judge sorry for her, but she might be just-oh, I don’t know.”

Mollified, Mayelle gave Atticus a final terrified glance and said to Mr. Gilmer, “Well sir, I was on the porch and-and he came along and, you see, there was this old chiffarobe in the yard Papa’d brough in to chop up for kindlin’-Papa told me to do it while he was off in the woods but I wadn’t feelin’ strong enough then, so he came by-“

“Who is ‘he’?”

Mayella pointed to Tom Robinson. I’ll have to ask you to be more specific, please,” said Mr. Gilmer. “The reporter can’t put down gestures very well.”

“That’n yonder,” she said. “Robinson.”

“Then what happened?”

“I said come here, nigger, and bust up this chiffarobe for me, I gotta nickel for you. He coulda done it easy enough, he could. So he come in the yeard an’ I went in the house to get him the nickel and I turned around an ‘fore I knew it he was on me. Just run up behind me, he did. He got me round the neck, cussin’ me an’ sayin’ dirt-I fought’n’hollered, but he had me round the neck. He hit me agin an’ agin-“

Mr. Gilmer waited for Mayella to collect herself: she had twisted her handkerchief into a sweaty rope; when she opened it to wipe her face it was a mass of creases from her hot hands. She waited for Mr. Gilmer to ask another question, but when he didn’t she said, “-he chunked me on the floor an’ choked me’n took advantage of me.”

“Did you scream?” asked Mr. Gilmer. “Did you scream and fight back?”

“Reckon I did, hollered for all I was worth, kicked and hollered loud as I could.”

“Then what happened?”

“I don’t remember too good, but next thing I knew Papa was in the room a’standin’ over me hollerin’ who done it, who done it? Then I sorta fainted an’ the next thing I knew Mr. Tate was pullin’ me up off the floor and leadin’ me to the water bucket.”


This excerpt was chosen because this is the only time that Mayella appears in the book, where it seems she’s taking on the common role as the white woman attacked by the black man, who needs protection from the white men. In order to convict Tom, the jury had to believe that Mayella was a helpless woman who got taken advantage of by Tom, instead of a desperate, lonely woman who wanted him. And to do this successfully, Mayella tried to make the men of the courtroom think that she is a helpless victim in need of protection, so that they will take her word over Tom’s in order to protect the female victim, despite her “white trash” status. She managed to do this, judging by how weak and immature she sounds in her testimony.

It also appears that Mayella is dealing with her own problems for having a desire that everybody tells her is wrong. So, she says that she’s not the one with the desire, and Tom is, and she probably thinks that by destroying him the desire would be gone. Or, maybe that isn’t the case at all, and she doesn’t see anything wrong with what she did, just that she got caught, and is now trying to control the damage by saying whatever her father tells her to say. Either way, he testimony sounds like it has many flaws that should have been better addressed.

So, this begs the question: “Why doesn’t Mayella tell the truth in the first place?” I think it’s probably because she’s scared of her father, who may have abused and/or beaten her in the past. That, and she’s doing something everybody has done: distancing herself from the evidence in a case that isn’t just about race, or just about gender, but about the combination of both (which has turned out to be a big case in the public’s eye).

Chapter 25, page 275 -276

Maycomb was interested by the news of Tom’s death for perhaps two days; two days was enough for the information to spread through the county. “Did you hear about? … No? Well, they say he was runnin’ fit to beat lightnin’…” To Maycomb, Tom’s death was Typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run. Typical of a nigger’s mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw. Funny thing, Atticus Finch might’ve got him off scot free, but wait–? Hell no. You know how they are. Easy come, easy go. Just shows you, that Robinson boy was legally married, they say he kept himself clean, went to church and all that, but when it comes down to the line the veneer’s mighty thin. Nigger always comes out in ’em.

A few more details, enabling the listener to repeat his version in turn, then nothing to talk about until The Maycomb Tribune appeared the following Thursday. There was a brief obituary in the Colored News, but there was also an editorial.

Mr. B. B. Underwood was at the most bitter, and he couldn’t have cared less who canceled advertising and subscriptions. (But Maycomb didn’t play that way: Mr. Underwood could holler till he sweated and write whatever he wanted to, he’d still get his advertising and subscriptions. If he wanted to make a fool of himself in his paper that was his business.) Mr. Underwood simply figured it was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. He likened Tom’s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children, and Maycomb thought he was trying to write an editorial poetical enough to be reprinted in The Montgomery Advertiser.

How could this be so, I wondered, as I read Mr. Underwood’s editorial. Senseless killing-Tom had been given due process of law to the day of his death; he had been tried openly and convicted by twelve good men and true; my father had fought for him all the way. Then Mr. Underwood’s meaning became clear: Atticus had used very tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.

The name Ewell gave me a queasy feeling. Maycomb had lost no time in getting Mr. Ewell’s views on Tom’s demise and passing them along through that English Channel of gossip, Miss Stephanie Crawford. Miss Stephanie told Aunt Alexandra in Jem’s presence (“Oh foot, he’d old enough to listen”) that Mr. Ewell said it made one down and about two more to go. Jem told me not to be afraid, Mr. Ewell was more hot gas than anything. Jem also told me that if I breathed a word to Atticus, if in any way I let Atticus know I knew, Jem would personally never speak to me again.


I chose this excerpt, because Tom’s death goes nearly unnoticed because the townspeople thought it was typical of a black man to run from his problems. They thought it was typical of him to run without a plan other than to get away while he can. The only mention of his death was a short obituary in the “Colored News,” and an editorial written by a seemingly racist man, where Tom is characterized as a mockingbird (hence “…to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children”). However, it was while reading this quote that Scout realized her father didn’t have a case against the hearts of the men in the courtroom. They felt bad for the woman and wanted to protect her, not Tom. This shows the mindset of many people in these days. They really didn’t care if a black man got shot. They just cared that “one of their own kind” was spared.

At this time, Alexandra and Scout stand together as Finches, as harmless as mockingbirds (since they were on Tom’s side of the case), forced to deal with the white community’s ignorance toward justice. Tom Robinson never hurt anything, yet he was convicted and waiting for his appeal in jail. They believe the stress of being in jail for a crime he didn’t commit and having to go through another trial is what led Tom to run and ultimately be shot.


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