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 students to stress and worry. In an effort to relieve the misery, Finny decides to organize a winter carnival for the pupils. Although the festivities of the winter carnival suggest that the boys have been successful in creating a separate peace, Knowles’ use of war imagery in describing the setting, prizes, and the boy’s behavior suggests that this peace is illusory. Although the setting of the carnival seems serene at first, a closer look at the descriptive language reveals that the Devon school is in a war-like state. The brutal winter causes the students to have a depressing view of their school life. The despair that the cold weather has brought with it causes Gene to loathe winter, he compares it to a “corrupt…conqueror” who’s presence has “destroyed everything”. In spite of getting ready for a carnival, Gene still finds it hard to return to the pleasant mood that he had felt during the summer semester. The difference between winter and summer signify the difference between times of war and times of peace. Like the winter season, the war appears to demolish everything, including the feeling of happiness. On the day of the festival, the students still cannot get rid of his glum attitude. Knowles describes the Saturday of the carnival to be “battleship gray”. Through the use...
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