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A Separate Peace

  • Date Submitted: 09/26/2010 02:54 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 64.7 
  • Words: 1098
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John Knowles' novel A Separate Peace, involves a young boys' attempt to understand the world around him and himself. It is an age-old conflict set against a greater one: World War II. Gene Forrester, the narrator of the story, is fighting a war within himself concerning whether to live within the secluded and safe values found in a peaceful prep school or to move out of this security and into the confusion of the adult world. At the same time, he is waging a war against the domination of his best friend's approach to life. The novel chronicles Gene's fluctuations between accepting and rejecting the various aspects of these two worlds. A Separate Peace is an intensive inquiry into the nature of war. It is, first and foremost, a war novel, but because the action takes place far from the battlefield, it is a very unusual war novel.
One of the reasons John Knowles is such an exceptional author is that he does not waste anytime introducing the theme of war within the opening chapter. Of his first novel, Knowles once wrote:
If anything as I wrote tempted me to insert artificial complexities, I ignored it. If anything appeared which look suspiciously like a symbol, I left it on its own. I thought that if I wrote truly and deeply enough about certain specific people in a certain place at a particular time having certain specific experiences, then the result would be relevant for many other kinds of people and places and times and experiences. (Carey p.5)

Knowles wants the reader to realize from the start that there is an actual war taking place at Devon. This is the war among the boys themselves. To also remind the reader that America is at war when the story takes place, the very first paragraph suggests that in 1942 the school was not as shiny as it now is because at that time there was a war going on. The reader also learns that the summer session at Devon has been designed as part of the national war effort; classes must keep going all the time because students...

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