John Knowles' A Separate Peace

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John Knowles' "A Separate Peace"

Gene, returns to the Devon School in New Hampshire, where he was a student with his friend Phineas 15 years ago, just as World War II began. The book goes back 15 years, to Gene's days with Phineas. On their first chance to jump off a huge tree into the river, Phineas, being the daredevil, goes first and Gene is the only one who follows. Gene is normally a conservative, conformist type person, but around Phineas, he consents to break the rules more often.

Finny is an irregularity at Devon. He is a good student and athlete, but also a charming, likeable rule-breaker. The substitute headmaster, Mr. Patch-Withers, gives a tea for their class. Mrs. Patch-Withers notices that Finny has used the school tie as his belt, which is a heavy offense. Finny concocts some nonsense excuse, at which Mr. Patch-Withers is taken by surprise, and does not punish Finny.

Finny and Gene come up with the idea for a "Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session," a group for exciting and dangerous things. Gene goes onto the diving limb with Finny, and loses his balance; Finny stops Gene from falling, and Gene soon realizes that his friend saved his life.

Some of Finny and Gene's friends begin to join their new club. Finny makes up a game called "blitzball," sort of a variation on rugby and football; the game is a hit that summer.

Finny casually and easily breaks a school swimming record; Finny also refuses to do it again and have it count. Finny proposes that they go to the beach, which means big trouble if they are caught; Gene decides to go along. That night, Finny admits that he considers Gene his best friend, which touches Gene deeply, but somehow Gene can't say the same thing.

Finny mocks Gene's scholarly ambition, and Gene begins to believe that Finny is trying to come out ahead. Finny is the best in the school in athletics; Gene knows that he can be the best in academics, if Finny wouldn't take up so much of his time. Gene finds it hard to compete with Finny, but continues to improve.

When Finny asks Gene to come see a friend jump from their tree the night before exams, Gene vehemently objects. Gene thinks this is Finny's way of trying to sabotage his grades. Finny says he thought that Gene never needed to study. Gene, somewhat appeased, goes to the jumping tree with Finny.

Gene and Finny decide to do jump ...

... middle of paper ...

...the war, and how his friendship with Finny prepared him for his own experience. In lieu of Finny, he has finally adopted Finny's way of looking at things, and some of Finny's personality and rebelliousness. Finny means a lot to him and still influences him, and Gene is finally able to appreciate his friend for all that he was, and make peace with him.


One of the major themes in this story is about reflection. The story goes back into the past and into the present. And they show him as a man looking at his younger self. This shows that even though time has gone by Gene has still remembered everything.

Another theme of this story is denial because both Gene and Finny experience a great deal of denial in the novel, but of different types. Gene tries his best to deny that he hurt Finny, and that he has a dark streak in his nature that causes him to lash out at innocent people.


My opinion of this novel is that it was a good book. If I personally had to pick a book to read it would not be my first choice. But overall I had an easy time reading this book and it actually meant something so it wasn’t too bad. At the end I was satisfied for the time read.
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