A Separate Peace: the Descent Into Adulthood

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A Separate Peace: The Descent into Adulthood

“To the soul, there is hardly anything more healing than friendship” (Thomas Moore). In the young adult novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles, the main character, Gene, reminisces about his friends from high school and his most significant, vivid memories. The experiences Gene endures in high school result from each student’s apprehension of becoming enlisted in the ongoing war. This hidden sense of battle created within each boy gradually destroys their inner-youth. Thus, the theme that one’s loss of innocence is inevitable and devastating becomes clear through the seasonal shift from summer to winter and the effects of war.

The seasonal shift from winter to summer represents the boys’ fall into maturity, proving the theme that the loss of innocence is painful and unavoidable. While introducing the Devon School, Gene explains early on that "During the winter[,] most of [the dormitory Masters] regard anything unexpected in a student with suspicion...[but on] clear June days...they appear to uncoil...[and] a streak of tolerance is detectable" (Knowles 23). The Devon School, one of the most flourishing and strict boarding schools in New Hampshire, takes boys and toughens them into men using a rigorous lifestyle. In the summer, however, the teachers let the boys skip meals and ditch school. Gene suspects that the Devon faculty lessens their grip over the boys because he and the other Lower Middlers, two ranks below the seniors, remind the teachers of youthful peace. Therefore, the students’ summer session symbolizes a naïve phase in their lives before they reach the vast confusions and troubles of adulthood. However, when Gene’s dormitory Master, Mr.Ludsbury, returns to the school, Mr.Ludsbury chides Gene, lecturing that “everything went straight to seed during the summer” and he declares that he will “put… the dormitory back together”(Knowles 81). With the inescapable coming of winter, order returns to



Cited: Alton, Anne Hiebert. "Overview of A Separate Peace." EXPLORING Novels. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 17 Jan. 2013. Knowles, John. A Separate Peace; a Novel. New York: Macmillan, 1960. Print. Wolfe, Peter. “The Impact of Knowles’s A Separate Peace.” DISCovering Authors. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 17 Jan. 2013.

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