A Separate Peace Essay

Submitted By bebo2in
Words: 2153
Pages: 9

By John Knowles


The novel is set at Devon, a private boarding school in New Hampshire, during World War II.
The novel begins with the main characters, Gene and Finny, at Devon for a summer session. The school hopes that this session will allow students to receive a diploma before they are drafted on their 18th birthday. Gene and Finny are roommates and friends at the school. Finny is a natural athlete who also acts as a leader for the other boys. Gene, however, is more academically oriented and is jealous of Finny’s natural ability in sports, a quality he lacks in academics.

Chapter 1

First-person narrative
Tone: nostalgia; the narrator’s feelings about his past.
The details of this recollection are dependent upon memory.
Theme of reflection; relation of a man to his much younger self.
Setting creates images: conservatism and traditionalism. 

Devon has changed; contrast between reality and what exists in the memory.
Theme of memory vs. reality; note description of the tree.
Devon – symbol of innocence and lost youth; symbol of fear he felt.
Foreshadowing: hardness of the marble stairs. 

June/November weather symbolism:
Gene as a youth and Gene as a man.
Gene & Finny as foils; Gene is ruleabiding & conservative; Finny is a daredevil with rule breaking attitude.

Chapter 2

Finny: charming; persuasive. He escapes punishment by inventing ridiculous excuses; succeeds in “winning over” the masters. Rebellion vs. conformity: Finny mixes both – he does well in school and sports – he fits in; however, he is a rebel.
Innocence vs. age: they are children of a
“careless peace” set apart from the adults by their lack of knowledge of the war. 

Finny – pink shirt – he says it’s a symbol of patriotism. It is really a symbol of
Finny’s willingness to be different; he cared little about what people thought about this (one of his little acts of rebellion). Chapter 3

Tone changes from end of Chapter 2. Ch.
2 – Gene grateful to Finny for saving him;
Ch. 3 – Gene accuses Finny of being responsible for the whole thing; we see jealousy and negative feelings Gene has for Finny.
Gene – feels obligation to Finny; feels like he is in a “strait jacket”.
The jealousy in Gene’s nature causes him to think badly of Finny and cast himself as Finny’s opponent.

Innocence vs. experience – seniors: completing obstacle courses and exercises; juniors: playing fields at their disposal. Blitzball – Finny’s inventive spirit; athletic ability; “sheer acts of mass hypnotism”.
Gene – in his description of Finny, makes him seem larger than life.
Time switch – present – Gene reflects on
World War II influence.

Metaphor – Finny as a bullet – swimming incident; rebellion.
Ocean visit – Gene’s refusal to answer
Finny – foreshadows conflict (something wrong beneath the surface of their friendship). Chapter 4

Sunrise – usually symbolic of rebirth or enlightenment. In this chapter, in symbolizes a more negative change that comes suddenly to Gene.
Description of the beach – “totally white and stainless” – just as Finny’s character turns out to be; Gene, however, expects that there is a grey nature in Finny’s character. Irony – Gene thinks Finny is trying to keep him from excelling and is engaged in some sort of

competition with him (as far from the truth as it can possibly be).
 Gene’s jealousy of Finny helps to create an utterly unflattering portrait of Finny.
 Gene – perhaps melodramatic – “deadly rivalry”.  Vengeful
 Truth vs. dangerous falsehood; Gene misinterprets his destructive anger as genuine despair.

We see the dark side to Gene’s character whereas Finny seems more pure and good-hearted than before.
Good vs. evil – Gene harms his friend.
Gene is actually projecting his own feelings into Finny (self-ambition).
By the end, Gene is more bitter and sarcastic towards Finny; Finny is more honest and sincere.

Irony – Gene