A Separate Peace

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A Separate Peace
In the opening passage of A Separate Peace, John Knowles utilizes personifications, similes, and metaphors in order to create a gloomy and contemplative mood. At the beginning of the book, Gene Forrester is visiting his old high school, The Devon School, and the school ironically looks newer and more improved. As he explores this new school, a mood of gloom and contemplation is created. A personification such as, “Now here it was after all, preserved by some considerate hand with varnish and wax” helps contribute to the mood of gloom and darkness because Gene didn’t like the school’s new appearance. He says, “I didn’t entirely like this glossy new surface” at the beginning of his visit. This shows that he wants to have a sense that time has passed the unpleasant events when he was attending high school. Thus, he feels bothered at how new and varnished the school looks, as if it had been frozen in time since the days when he attended the school. He wanted things to be different from when he was a student to the present as an adult. The marble steps also are something that he finds equally disturbing, for it makes them look “the same as ever.” The most threatening viewpoint of these observations for Gene is what they imply about him: that the passage of time hasn’t changed him either.  The simile, “preserved well along with it, like stale air in an unopened room, was the well-known fear which had surrounded and filled those days” shows that there had been fear at Devon all along and there still is even while Gene visits the school. It contributes to the mood because as Gene walks around the school, he can feel that fear, and they triggered flashbacks of his school days leading to painful memories. Gene says, “Looking back now, I could see with great clarity the fear I had lived in” and that he felt “fear’s echo” which represents the remembrance of the mood that overshadowed everything in those days. He is surprised to discover that, somewhere...
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