Carl Jung, an apprentice of Sigmund Freud had his own ideas of the conscious and unconscious mind. He used the ideas of archetype pairs to explain one’s personality. A prime example of this pair is the ego and shadow. The ego represents the part of the mind that protects one’s self-esteem. The shadow is a component of the mind that keeps bad qualities hidden from others. Each of these archetypes represents a different part of one’s personality. Archetype pairs must be balanced in one’s choices and actions. Using Jungian analysis to examine A Separate Peace by John Knowles shows that Gene is the shadow, Finny is the ego and the author John Knowles favors Gene or his shadow.
Gene models the Jungian shadow through his acts of jealousy. Gene, throughout the book, is portrayed as jealous of his friend, Finny. Gene states “Exposing a sincere emotion nakedly like that at the Devon School was the next thing to suicide. I should have told him then that he was my best friend...I nearly did. But something held me back. Perhaps I was stopped by that level of feeling, deeper than though, which contains the truth” (Knowles 48). Gene refers to the “truth”, as a feeling of anger and envy toward Finny for his leadership and self-admiration. Although Gene’s shadow tries to hide these emotions, at times it fails. Gene is unable to see Finny as his friend and instead sees him as an enemy who will always succeed where he fails. Gene begins to see that he only has the mentality of competition and jealousy. Gene states “He had never been jealous of me for a second. Now I knew that there never was and never had been any rivalry between us” (Knowles 59). Gene’s shadow is very prevalent in this passage, it tries to hide his idea of competition. To Finny there was no rivalry between them, but for Gene, it has always been there. Gene understands that Finny never has any feelings against him, he has no shadow.
Finny represents the Jungian ego by his actions of self-empowerment. Finny is able to accept his imperfections, such as his inability to do well in studies. This can be seen in the passage, “‘Listen, I could study forever and I’d never break C’” (Knowles 58). Finny knows that academics are not for him, so he is ready to accept this and move on. His ego allows him to focus on his better qualities like athletics. Finny, unlike Gene, is able to acknowledge his shortcomings making him a good embodiment of ego. The ego component in his mind tries not to see the worst in others and tries to focus on the better qualities in people. Phineas says “I did have this feeling that when you were standing there beside me...it was a crazy idea, I must have been delirious” (Knowles 66). Phineas has a notion that Gene had a part in his fall, yet Phineas disregards this idea. Through his ego, Phineas is only able to see the best in others, which leads to his destruction.
The author favors the prevalence of shadow in the personality of Gene. This is evident through Knowles’ writing when Finny is dead and Gene is alive at the end of the book. As a child Gene is always thinking about Finny and trying to compete with him in both athletics and his studies. As an adult, he has developed a balance on both archetypes, shadow and ego. Gene begins to realize that Finny could not have survived since he was unable to see that world as it is, is unfair and cruel at times. Gene states “I never killed anybody and I never developed an intense level of hatred for the enemy, Because my war ended before I even put on a uniform; I was on active duty all my time at school; I killed my enemy there” (Knowles 204). Gene understands that his competition in school allowed him to survive. While Finny’s innocence and inability to accept Gene’s betrayal brings him to his ultimate death.
Jung’s ideas of the different archetypes found in one’s conscious and unconscious mind help to understand the character’s at a deeper and personal level. Through analyzing A Separate Peace by author John Knowles, readers can establish the prevalence of shadow in Gene, and ego within Finny. John Knowles through writing this book gives his own opinions on the different archetypes, especially supporting shadow which is found in Finny. These different personalities can be seen in people around us even to this day. It gives a better understanding of emotions such as jealousy and courage.