The Enemy Inside
John Knowles’ novel, A Separate Peace, is composed around the story of two adolescents living during World War II. This novel conveys a warlike theme, but ironically no guns are fired. While there is an actual war that takes place on a battlefield, the main war does not. This war-like tone establishes the central theme in the novel, and is associated with the struggle of young men converting into adulthood. This being said, the war that takes place is a symbolic one; it’s a war that exists within the youth of the story. The boys who fight this war graduate from Devon, which curtains the horrors that the real world holds, then immediately serve in World War II, which exposes the boys to nightmares that they had never even dreamed about. World War II plays a vital role in this novel acting as a perfect transition for the boys disencumbering their innocence and then evolving into men. Gene, the main character in the novel, states that he fought his “war” at Devon and killed his enemy there. Although Phineas considered Gene to be his best friend, he was also Gene’s greatest enemy; Finny can be symbolized as the youth and innocence that dwelled within Gene, therefore “killing the enemy” was the only way for Gene to mature into adulthood.
Gene Forester begins his narration by describing his return to Devon, a boarding school in New Hampshire, which he graduated from fifteen years before. During Gene’s visit, he decides to approach two places that seem to have significant meaning to him. He first comes to this set of marble stairs, and describes them as being quite hard and how he had overlooked that “crucial fact.” The second place Gene visits is a tree, a tree that is of such incredible significance to him that he endures rain, mud, and fog just to see it once more. “I was thankful, very thankful that I had seen it. So the more things remain the same, the more they change after all-plus c’est la meme chose, plus ca change....
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