A Separate Peace by John Knowls Is a classic struggle of man vs. himself and man vs. society. Taking place as a flashback, the narrator Gene Forrester tells of his struggles as a prep school student in the years of his life between age 16, and 17 during the period of WWII. Although Gene Forester the narrator and Finny an athletic roommate are best friends, they have to contrasting struggles.
Like the garden of Eden the first few chapters express the peacefulness of the summer at the Private school in New England and the land beneath the forbidden tree. Like the Book Billy Budd by Herman Melville, A Separate Peace identifies some of the characters as innocent to the world. Gene expresses what peace is like by saying "sixteen, careless and wild" and "Phineas was the essence of this careless peace."
Gene Forrester returns to visit the school and a tree in the book and represent him returning to some of the traumatic events in his life. Gene had always conformed to rules and followed rules and regulations with obedience. Throughout time this changes, as the influence of Finny lowers Genes obedience to such things. The wars within Gene are disputed as well as the wars outside and the novel expresses the acceptance and rejecting of these aspects. The struggles to create a better more Ideal life for himself occurs, and his belief that Finny is the ideal does not diminish until Finny no longer can stand on his own.
The complete contrast of Finny and Gene is a boy named Leper. Leper was not interested in much and is the first of the boys mentioned to go to war. Leper introduces the boys into the adult world before entering the army. His freedom is ended by the strict rules and behaviors of the army and he then changes severely.
Throughout the novel arises the symbol of the tree which has it’s part in the many conflicts each character faces. The sequence of events involving the tree are the challenge of climbing the tree, victory over fear and the betrayal of a friend.
This book shows the struggles conflicts and changes of a growing boy in society.