In the entire life cycle of a human being, teenage stage is the fun, memorable, and some time the wild part. In this teenage stage, the teenagers experiment with everything without caring about the consequences. For most people, the life prior to the teenage stage is the most exciting part because there are no worries; every thing is fun. When the teenage life begins, most of their behaviours change while adapting to various habits. They follow good and bad behaviours as the result of influences from their parents, friends, teachers and the society they live in. These behaviours and societal norms combined with enthusiastic nature makes teenagers do various things. The result of their activities gives them the basic knowledge of the real world. Dead Poets Society, by N. H. Kleinbaum, and A Separate Peace, John Knowles, are two novels that focus on the difficult journey towards maturity and the adult world of the teenage boys. They focus on the learning experience of friendship and self esteem through the death of others.
Both John Keating and Finny (Phineas) are great leaders who face many difficulties in achieving their goal and often become the victims. Dead Poets Society opens with Keating being a substitute teacher for an English class and encouraging his students to make their lives meaningful and extraordinary by referring to the word ““Carpe Diem”” (25). This is the Latin word for seize the Day and he wants them to seek out their dreams and to believe in themselves. Keating believes that education requires the student to think for himself. He must be free to question and to learn in the way that he learns best. A Separate Peace opens with Finny being portrayed as a brave sixteen years old boy who strongly believes in and encourages other students in his class to act upon their wishes. Both characters are optimistic about making a change in other people’’s lives to make them better. Keating encourages the students to write poems to express their feelings. Finny on the other hand, encourages his friends to skip classes and do wild things like jumping off the tree. Neil, one of Keating’’s students, follows his wishes and disobeys his father. At the end, Neil kills himself when his father decides to take him out of school. Yet Keating is blamed for Neil’’s death and is expelled from his position. The persistent theme of A Separate Peace is the fall of a complex friendship. Gene was Finny’’s best friend, however a silent rivalry develops between them. Gene’’s jealousy towards Finny’’s fame and talent makes him push Finny out of the tree and down the stairs causing Finny to die eventually. Neil’’s death helps the rest of Keating’’s students to realize that they should stand up for them and fight for their freedom. In the same way, Finny’’s death makes Gene grow up to become a mature person. Yet both Keating and Finny are the victims while trying to change the society for the better.
Gene Forrester of A Separate Peace and Charlie Dalton of Dead Poets Society are both selfish, 16 year old teenagers who have low self esteem and always mistreat others to hide their emotions. Gene Forrester is a quiet, intellectual student who is plagued by the darker forces of human nature. However, Charlie Dalton thrives on the attention he receives from other people. He thinks that he is ““above the law,”” and, in a sense, has a ““God-complex”” characteristic. He feels that he should always be in control of the situation and that he should not have to face the consequences of any of his actions. Gene Forrester is a coward and a cold-hearted person who depends on Finny although he pushes his best friend Finny off the tree because Finny is a better athlete. On the other hand, Charlie Dalton is very loyal by helping Mr. Keating from getting expelled. Both Gene Forrester and Charlie Dalton have similar characteristics such as that they both want to act as the justice for others.
Neil Perry of Dead Poets Society and Gene Forrester of A Separate Peace are alike in many aspects but different in some of their behaviours. Neil is sixteen years old who is being pressured by his father to become a doctor, where as Gene is putting pressure on himself by thinking that his best friend is trying to distract him from studying. Neil and Gene both have negative and positive sides to them. They are both smart in school and they respect their friends very much. Also, both of them are cowards and dishonest. Gene is afraid to tell Finny that he pushed him off the tree. Gene lies to his classmates that he didn’’t push Finny off the tree. Neil doesn’’t have the courage to tell his father about the play in which he wants be a part of. On the other hand, Neil lies to Mr. Keating that he had already told his father about the play. Even though both Neil and Gene have complex relationships with their loved ones, they love them as much as they love their selves.
Teenagers go through various confusing stages as they make the transition from an adolescent to an adult which involves love, fear and conflict. As seen in the above examples, Gene realizes how much he loves and respects Finny after his death. Gene’’s words in the novel ““I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral, and you do not cry in that case”” (186) expresses his deep emotions, whereas Neil expresses his love for his father by hiding his own feelings and respecting his father’’s feelings. Fear is the worst enemy in people’’s life that is difficult to control and deal with. Neil can’’t handle his fear of not being able to stand up for himself and ends up taking his own life. Gene’’s fear is that his best friend’’s talents and fame make him become an evil person. Life is a learning experience that comes from resolving conflicts. The lack of experience of the teenagers especially creates unexpected outcomes while they try to resolve the conflicts. In both novels, the death is an unexpected outcome yet it helps other people to learn from it. John Knowles and N. H. Kleinbaum discuss the important aspects of life cycles through various examples and show what one needs to contribute and what one gains from other people’’s mistakes.
Both authors use many symbols as a stylistic technique to develop and advance their themes of the novels. John Knowles uses War as a symbol of ““real world””, from which the teenagers exclude themselves. It is as if they were in their own little cave isolated from the outside world. Gene proves the above statement by keeping his emotions and fears to himself. John Knowles also uses the two rivers that are part of the Devon school, to symbolize how Gene and Finny grow up through the course of the novel. The Devon River is preferred by the students because it is above the dam and contains clean water. It is a symbol of childhood and innocence because it is safe and simple. The boys prefer to hold onto their youth instead of growing up. The Naguamsett is the disgustingly dirty river, which symbolizes adulthood because of its difficulty and complexity. The two rivers combine showing the boys changing from immature adolescence to slightly older and mature adults. Where as N. H. Kleinbaum uses the word ““Carpe diem”” (seize the day) as a symbol of freedom. Mr. Keating expresses this word to encourage his students to think carefully and choose what they really want in their lives. The cave is being used as a symbol of darkness and horror. Also, Neil’’s struggle between his passion for acting and his father wish to become a doctor symbolizes his puzzle of life.
Friendship and self-esteem are the main aspects of learning experience that has the power to change other’’s lives. As seen in the above examples, Gene and Neil are honest teenagers and, as a result of their honesty, have to face the consequences. Friendship is the best thing to have in life, but if one abuses the love of friendship then it will result in a complex relationship. All the teenagers face many difficulties in their lives, but they should be able to face it without taking the easy way out by hurting others or hurting themselves. Parents and friends are the powerful weapons, which change the lives of many teenagers around this world. Both John Knowles and N. H. Kleinbaum discuss the important aspects of a complex relationship through various examples and show what mistake teenagers make and how others and themselves learn from it.