A Separate Peace


Significant Quotations

1. “I think we reminded them of what peace was like, we boys of sixteen.”—chapter 2

This line is narrated by Gene when Finny gets them out of whatever punishment Mr. Prud’homme had in store for them for missing dinner. Gene suspects that the adults are lenient because the 16-year-old boys remind them “of what peace was like.” In other words, while the whole world is at war, caught up in some mysterious strife, the adults find it reassuring to see youth so carefree and simple and innocent. The fact, however, is that nothing is quite as it seems. The same war being waged across the sea is also being waged within the souls of the boys, who are on the brink of maturity. They will all come to know themselves more deeply and more intimately; some will overcome their faults, and others will fall.

2. “Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him.”—chapter 3

This another observation made by Gene as he reflects on his life. The moment he describes is essentially that moment in time which comes for all men when the terms of reality are set and defined for them. He notes that this moment occurs when “emotions achieve their most powerful sway” over a man, and thus imprint their ideas deeply and indelibly on his soul, shaping the way he sees all things past, present, and future. For Gene, this moment is the war. War is his reality. Historically speaking, the war is World War II; practically speaking, it is the conservation of all things as though there were a perpetual need to never waste; but spiritually and most importantly, the war is a moral one—and it is best described in terms of love and hate, humility and pride, charity and envy. Gene’s story is the story of this war.

3. “But you can’t say anything for sure from just feelings.”—chapter 5

Finny says this to Gene during Gene’s visit at the infirmary. Finny is trying to make sense of what happened when he fell,...

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Essays About A Separate Peace