The greatest battles of humanity are often not merely a clash of arms, but a quiet, vast conflict in the human heart. Similarly, actions in the world are thoughts made into reality, and feelings turned into motion. It is terrible to realize that war in all its evils is often a pure expression of something sinister within. A Separate Peace by John Knowles intimately explores the depths within humanity to uncover the essence of human nature. The novel is focuses on the solitary and intelligent narrator Gene Forester and his best friend, the athletic Phineas, or Finny. Their experiences over the course of a semester have many parallels with author John Knowles' actual life. He based the Devon School setting on his own time at the prestigious Philips Exeter Academy during the end of World War II (Jones). The author uses introspection to exhume the mind and soul of Gene, and to explore what shapes him. In his novel A Separate Peace, John Knowles expresses that one can only mature through self-awareness, in order to counter the indoctrination of youth into World War II.
Fittingly, the single greatest expression of such knowledge is in the characterization of the protagonist Gene, and later his development. He is the premier student of Devon Academy, intelligent and studious, but a social outcast, trying to stay afloat in a school of piranhas for classmates. He is commonly described as the "cautious Protestant" with a "germ of wildness" ("A Separate Peace"), describing his innate savagery beneath the veneer of civilization. In the beginning of the story, he held great enmity for Phineas despite their friendship. Gene saw Finny first as a competing rival, neurotic and jealous like himsel...
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... Center. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. 1975 ed. 1960. New York City: Bantam Books, 1975. Print.
“A Separate Peace.” Children’s Literature Review. Ed. Tom Burns. Vol. 98. Detroit, 2005. Gale Literature Resource Center. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.
Umphlett, Wiley Lee. “The Death of Innocence: The Paradox of the Dying Athlete.” The Sporting Myth and The American Experience: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 1975. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1975. 130-45. Rpt. in Children’s Literature Review. Ed. Tom Burns. Vol. 98. Detroit: n.p., 2005. N. pag. Gale Literature Resource Center. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.
Witherington, Paul. “A Separate Peace: A Study in Structural Ambiguity.” English Journal 54.9 (1965): 795-800. Rpt. in Children’s Literature Review. Ed. Tom Burns. Vol. 98. Detroit: n.p., 2005. N. pag. Gale Literature Resource Center. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.
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