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A Look at A Separate Peace

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Kaitlin Cullen-Verhauz 11/24/09 English 9 C Band A Separate Peace by John Knowles Set during the throws of World War II, A Separate Peace is a story about adolescent American boys in prep school, dealing with competition, jealousy, arrogance, and war. Knowles writes about how each individual boy copes with these things, based on their personalities. Each one is affected differently, however one thing they all have in common is the negative toll the war takes on each of them. Phineas goes into denial over the war, and doesn't even believe it exists; then his heart gives out. Gene is blinded by a war that he sees as a glorious escape from himself. Brinker, once intelligent and motivated, becomes careless and resentful. The indirect, yet destructive effects that the war has on each of the boys, exemplifies Knowles' anti-war sentiments. Phineas denies the war's entire existence. ...read more.


Gene sees the war as a glorious escape from reality. Because of Gene's feelings of inferiority to Phineas, combined with his guilt over Phineas' injury, Gene wants to use the war as a way for him to feel like a hero. "To enlist. To slam the door impulsively on the past, to shed everything down to my last bit of clothing, to break the pattern of my life..." (p. 100). He is na�ve about what war really entails because of the propaganda that was targeted toward boys his age. Knowles believes that it is the fault of the powers that be in life (for example the government, and their propaganda) that young men like Gene do not understand the war, and do not see it in its true form, but a sugar-coated version. Gene (among thousands of real boys at that time) believed that going to war was the noble and masculine thing to do, without really being warned of the treacherous and horrifying aspects of it. ...read more.


Again harkening back to the immense amount of pressure the war put on young men (that is obviously so disgusting to Knowles). So he tried to become removed from himself. The fear and embarrassment that Brinker felt because he didn't enlist was the reason that he dropped out of all the school activities that he had once taken so seriously. It is clear that John Knowles does not support war. The boys at Devon are all severely affected by the raging World War II in some way or another. Phineas chooses to turn his back on reality, and deny the very existence of the war. Gene refuses to see the horrifying truth of what war really is, and wants to use it as an opportunity to reinvent himself. Lastly, Brinker is ashamed at his personal inability to enlist, and withdraws from his usual activities. Although it comes about in different ways for each boy, the underlying current of pressure on all of them to prove themselves is what leads to their downfall. ...read more.

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