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A Separate Peace Essay

1181 words - 5 pages

A Separate Peace
In the 1940’s, World War II had a huge impact on the everyday lives of Americans. Many people had to sacrifice money, supplies, food and even lives to contribute to the war effort. However, the characters in John Knowles’ “A Separate Peace” appear to be sheltered from the influences of the international conflicts as a result of attending an all-boys boarding school. The novel focuses on the friendship between Finny and Gene, two friends who bonded during the carefree summer sessions at the Devon School. When the winter approaches, the students find themselves having to deal with stricter administration and rules. The new order and increasing impact of the war causes the ...view middle of the document...

Knowles describes the Saturday of the carnival to be “battleship gray”. Through the use of foreshadowing, the author reveals the tension among the boys. Even though the students manage to get along at first, the sullen weather hints to the clash that will take place later on. As the activities are taking place, Gene shows amazement at the fact that everyone appears to be so careless and unrestrained. The narrator feels that the carnival had allowed the students to be liberated from the “gray encroachments of 1943”. The carnival permitted the students to have one day of freedom from the strict administrations at the school. However, Gene automatically connects the warm feeling to the horrific war. He realizes that the lack of restraint on the students is only temporary; they will soon have to return back to their normal lives after the carnival. This is similar to the way the peaceful life at the Devon school is only for the time being, the boys will eventually have to face the reality of the war when they graduate. Despite Finny’s effort to recreate the lighthearted summer life by organizing the winter carnival, he is unsuccessful because the school is not the friendly haven it once was.
The rewards offered at the winter carnival reflect the boys’ loss of innocence as they struggle to become men. At school, the students are taught to prepare themselves to fight in the war. This is the reason why one of the sought after prizes is a “set of York barbells”. It reveals the desires of the young men to serve their country. The teenagers all want to become great soldiers and to do so, they must start training as early as possible. Knowles shows that the characters are growing up and are accepting of their future in the war. The winnings also exposes that the adolescents are no longer the innocent kids they once were. A piece of hair “cut under duress” that once belonged to the “professional town belle” was placed on the prize table. The fact that the boys are after locks of hair from a prostitute means that they are going through hormonal changes and are testosterone-driven. As a result of not knowing how to deal with these developments, the students resort to taking forceful actions to fulfill their desires. Gene’s classmate, Brinker goes through great lengths to get awards which include doing irresponsible things. However, he does not show remorse for these actions. Brinker places the money from the “Headmaster’s...

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