Analysis of A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Analysis of A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Length: 1499 words (4.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Analysis of A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Telgen states John Knowles was born on 16 September 1926, in Fairmont, West Virginia. At the age of fifteen, Knowles attended New Hampshire's prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy. The Devon school, where most of the actions of A Separate Peace take place, is based on Phillips Exeter.
After graduating from Exeter, Knowles entered Yale University for the 1944 fall term before going into the U.S. Army Air Force. After being discharged from service, he returned to Yale and continued his studies. In 1449 Knowles graduated with a B.A. in English. In 1953, Story Magazine published his first story, A Turn in the Sun. During the 1950's Knowles started to work on the novel that would become his most famous, A Separate Peace. However, getting the book published did not come easily at all. Turing the manuscript over to a literary agent, Knowles saw his book rejected by eleven publishers. Finally, in 1959, the London publisher Secker and Warburg agreed to put out the British edition of the novel. Following A Separate Peace, Knowles went out to publish other novels, including Morning in Antibes, The Paragon, and A Vein of Riches. In 1981, Knowles published Peace Breaks Out; the sequel to A Separate Peace.
Although A Separate Peace did not become an instant "best-seller", it has gradually become a commercial success, selling more than nine million copies (Telgen 241).
Gene Forrester returns to visit the campus of Devon School, an all-boys preparatory school in rural New Hampshire. Two locations bear a mysterious significance to him, the first being a marble staircase inside a classroom building. The second is beneath a tree growing near the Devon River. After standing outside, time moves back fifteen years to when Gene had still been a schoolboy standing near that same tree. His friend Finny urges him to climb its branches and jump off to simulate abandoning a torpedoed ship. At the time, World War II is waging on in the outside world. Despite his fear, Gene jumps out of its branches and into the river with Finny.
During a class session in the summer of 1942, Gene becomes increasingly paranoid of Finny who is also his roommate. He is the best at every sort of sport while Gene excels in academics and is not very athletic at all.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Analysis of A Separate Peace by John Knowles." 123HelpMe.com. 16 Feb 2020
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=160789>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Analysis of A Separate Peace by John Knowles Essay

- Analysis of A Separate Peace by John Knowles Telgen states John Knowles was born on 16 September 1926, in Fairmont, West Virginia. At the age of fifteen, Knowles attended New Hampshire's prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy. The Devon school, where most of the actions of A Separate Peace take place, is based on Phillips Exeter. After graduating from Exeter, Knowles entered Yale University for the 1944 fall term before going into the U.S. Army Air Force. After being discharged from service, he returned to Yale and continued his studies....   [tags: Knowles Separate Peace Analysis]

Free Essays
1499 words (4.3 pages)

Essay on Analysis of Leper In A Separate Peace by John Knowles

- "Truth: the most deadly weapon ever discovered by humanity. Capable of destroying entire perceptual sets, cultures, and realities. Outlawed by all governments everywhere. Possession is normally punishable by death." John Gilmore's perception of truth portrays a view extremely relative to the novel, A Separate Peace, by John Knowles. Knowles creates a theme of veracity in animus within the novel and supports it through the unique character traits of Leper. First and foremost, Knowles characterizes Leper as a vulnerable outsider through his actions, words, and character as a whole....   [tags: Character Analysis, Genuinity]

Research Papers
827 words (2.4 pages)

Analysis of John Knowle's A Separate Peace, and William Golding's The Lord of the Flies

- Civilization versus savagery, order versus chaos, reason versus impulse, law versus anarchy, or simply good versus evil infinitely describe the dreadful encounters of humanity. Every battle, every political struggle, every account of internal strife embodies these conflicts. World War II demonstrates the key clash of good versus evil within society, being the most deadly, destructive and consequential war in history. After beginning in 1939, the war raged for six more years. The war’s estimated fatalities reach as high as 70 million, opening everyone’s eyes....   [tags: Compare&Contrast, Human Nature]

Research Papers
1688 words (4.8 pages)

A War Ridden Childhood: Analysis Comparing Lord of the Flies by William Golding and a Separate Peace by John Knowles

- Beyond one’s personal world, there is a bigger world open to everyone. Because of how open the world is, humans are exposed to events outside of their own surroundings so much that one is bound to become influenced by these events and even begin to revolve their own thinking around the main outside influence. Lord of the Flies is about a group of young English schoolboys who all get plane wrecked on an uninhabited island and have to survive on their own until rescued. Within Lord of the Flies by William Golding, several hints of war and symbols of war are dropped periodically throughout the time that the Ralph and the boys are stuck on the island....   [tags: war, symbol, world, evil]

Research Papers
903 words (2.6 pages)

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles Essay

- Throughout human history, war has stood as a universal reaction to various conflicts between diverse peoples. War can embed itself into a culture over generations of fighting. So much so that there exists cultures that base themselves around the idea of war, creating hostile and bellicose peoples. At times, war may not even have grounds, but the aggressive nature of the people often cause it to proceed without justification. In A Separate Peace, wars such as these are seen between the characters and within the characters of Gene and Phineas....   [tags: Influence of War, Character Analysis]

Research Papers
1069 words (3.1 pages)

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles Essay

- Throughout human history, war has stood as a universal reaction to various conflicts between diverse peoples. War can embed itself into a culture over generations of fighting. It can generate cultures that base themselves around the concept of war, creating hostile and bellicose peoples. At times, war may not even have grounds, but the aggressive nature of the people often cause it to proceed without justification. These wars often proceed due to perceptions conceived within the depths of peoples’ imaginations....   [tags: Character Analysis, War]

Research Papers
1090 words (3.1 pages)

A Separate Peace Essay

- The quote, “Ignorance is bliss,” by Thomas Gray is a seemingly adequate description of the lives of Gene, Finny, and Leper until they are all roughly jolted out of their fantasy world and brought back to reality. In A Separate Peace, John Knowles does an acceptable job of showing how disillusionment can greatly impact and, thus, change the lives of people. The book showcases the cycle of disillusionment and the ramifications it implies. Throughout the book, we see Gene, Leper, and Finny’s views on the world change....   [tags: John Knowles, Literary Analysis]

Research Papers
1214 words (3.5 pages)

A Separate Peace Book Analysis Essay

- In A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Gene, Finny, and Leper fear recognizing their own flaws and learning about the harsh realities of a world at war because it affects their decision making causing them to make poor decisions, such as severely hurting one another, more frequently. Fear surrounds Gene during his time at the Devon school, affecting how he feels towards others as well as how well he trusts others. The fear isolates Gene from his friends and makes him, both, become weary of the evils around him as well as make him see other irrelevant evils....   [tags: fear, john knowles, finny]

Research Papers
787 words (2.2 pages)

A Separate Peace by John Knowles Essay

- ... I believe that the main idea for most of this book is the conflict between Phineas and Gene. There is also an underlying main idea about WWII. Almost as soon as the book starts, the characters talk about the war. “When they torpedo the troopship… You can’t stand around admiring the view. Jump!” (17) Then the conflict between Gene and Finny starts to emerge. They seem to be friendly sometimes, but in the end, they are almost always at odds. The war also takes a great toll on all of the characters emotionally, especially Leper, who enlists and goes mad while in the army....   [tags: literary analysis]

Research Papers
1259 words (3.6 pages)

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles Essay

- People frequently betray others because of the evil in their hearts. In A Separate Peace, John Knowles uses the pureness of the rakish Finny to portray the savage or bad side of the vulpine Gene. He also uses it to prove that peace is exceedingly difficult to acquire until a person accepts the ignorance in their own heart. That means that acceptance is the key to finding peace. Thus, Gene finds his peace when Finny forgives him and when Gene learns to forgive himself as well. Gene assumes that Finny and he despise each other, until he becomes aware of how flawless Finny really is, which Gene loathes....   [tags: A Separate Peace, John Knowles]

Research Papers
740 words (2.1 pages)

Finally, he decides that Finny is just as jealous of him as he is of Finny. As this conflict unfolds within Devon's campus, the war continues in the outside with a greater fury. Gene's obsession with Finny becomes so overwhelming that, while jumping out of the tree again later in the summer, he shakes the branch to intentionally knock Finny out of the tree. Finny's leg is broken and he is unable to play sports again. Gene feels guilty about what he has done and tries to confess to Finny but he refuses to believe that Gene, his best friend, would ever hurt him.
Devon school becomes more disciplined and orderly as the Winter Session begins and, with Finny's absence due to his injury, Gene decides that he will leave Devon early in order to enlist in the military and fight in the war. But he wants to fight not for patriotism, but rather for the sake of committing violence. Finny returns to school unexpectedly on the crutches and discourages him from doing this. Their friendship becomes stronger as the two open up to one another. Gene tutors Finny in academics and Finny teaches him about sports. They both make great progress and forget about the war for a little while.
As the spring begins, Brinker Hadley suspects Gene of causing Finny's fall from the tree during that previous summer and holds a trail for the two. Finny realizes that his best friend really had knocked him off the branch purposely and is so upset that he falls down the same marble staircase that Gene visits fifteen years later. His recovering leg is broken again. Gene speaks to him in the school's infirmary and apologizes for what he has done. Finny forgives him and regrets that he himself can not enlist to fight in the war because of his leg. Gene assures him that he would be a terrible soldier anyway since he is so friendly and innocent. Finny then dies after a marrow leaks from the broken leg, causing his heart to stop.
A Separate Peace is associated with the concept of adolescent's failure to evil. Through Biblical allusion and character development, Knowles is able to demonstrate how easily it is for one to fall into the hands of evil without ever knowing.
Knowles is a master of characterization, which is best seen in his creation of Gene. Gene at fist is portrayed as a young innocent adolescent, but with time is perceived as a cold-hearted adolescent. The first session at school the boys forget about the war that is happening and enjoy the liberty they are given by the professors. They take full advantage and break just about any rule they can. As Halio states, "within this experience, another kind of war subtly emerges, a struggle between Gene, who is a good student and an able competitor in sports, and Finny, who is the school's champion athlete but poor at studying" (Halio 247). The crucial experience, which subdued Gene's innocence and permitted his evil side to take over, came with his failure to accept the fact that it was impossible to emulate Finny in sports. This incident leads to Gene's revenge on Finny and that turned him into the "wicked" antagonist.
Gene also becomes extremely envious, because no matter what trouble Finny would get into, he always found a way out without getting into any trouble. "He had gotten away with everything. I felt a sudden stab of disappointment. That was because I wanted more excitement; that must have been it" (Knowles 21). Through verbal irony and negative diction, Knowles expresses Gene's wicked thoughts and how he really feels inside about Finny. Though Gene may act like none of this really bothers him, it is clear to us the reader that deep down inside he is burning of envy, or as Holborn states; "Irony leaves no doubt as to Gene's true feelings" (Holborn 256). As the days passed on, Gene little by little was falling into the hands of evil; his envy towards Finny grew more each day until he is completely paranoid of Finny.
Knowles utilizes Biblical allusion to demonstrate how the boys so easily fall into the hands of evil without ever knowing. Holborn states that the summertime at Devon is like Eden: "the sun always seems to shine, the days endlessly filled with games on the playing field. This Eden also has its tree and, like the original, this is the tree of the knowledge of the good and the evil" (Holborn 255). The tree in Eden is the tree that Adam was not supposed to take any apples from; it was to be used for anything else but the apples were specifically off limits. Adam just could not resist the temptation and took an apple from the tree. In the novel, the tree was being used to jump off the highest branch into the Devon River, as an obstacle testing each others' courage. With all the war going on around them, the boys decide to name their squad the "Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session" (Knowles ). Gene as well was tempted and "jounced the limb causing Finny to fall off the branch" (Knowles ). Ironically just like Adam, Gene's innocence and temptation was corrupted, and evil prevailed.
Ellis states; "Gene has come to see that this enemy never comes from without, but always from within. He knows, moreover, that there is no defense to be built, only an acceptance and purification of oneself through love" (Ellis 249). Gene comes to learn that his war, the essential war, is fought out on the battlefield within and the only escape, the price of peace, is self-awareness. Knowles was able to develop characters that faced the everyday problems that one might face nowadays, thus making the novel more comprehensible.

Ellis, James. "'A Separate Peace': The Fall from Innocence." English Journal. 1964. 313-18. Ed. Stine. 245-49.
Halio, Jay L. "John Knowles's Short Novels." Studies in Short Fiction. 1964. 107-12. Ed. Stine. 246-48.
Holborn, David G. "A Rational for Reading John Knowles' ‘A Separate Peace'." Censored Books: Critical Viewpoints. 1993. 456-63. Ed. Telgen. 254-58.
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. New York: The Macmillan Company. 1960.
Telgen, Diane, ed. "A Separate Peace." Novels for Students. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1998. 240-41.
Return to 123HelpMe.com