An Analysis Of John Knowles A Separate Peace

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In the words of Oscar Wilde, "Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."(Du Profundis) That is certainly a true statement for Gene Forrester, who almost blindly follows and emulates his friend Phineas; it in fact begins to develop a theme of duality. But where did such a theme come from? Did it come from the author's life? Was it from culture? Could it be from religion? How do events and literary devices in the novel support such influences? John Knowles was influenced in many ways, biographically, culturally, and religiously, to develop the the themes of envy, harmony, maturity, and war in his novel.
John Knowles was highly influenced in his writing by his early
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ENotes’ analysis of the novel says, “The early reverses the Allies suffer seem to imperil the very values of Western civilization. The war is presented first as a distant source of uneasiness, but its presence gradually grows into an emblem of the encroachment of the adult world’s most mundane elements onto an unspoiled realm of youth and beauty” (Page 3). This means that World War II started off portrayed as a far off distant problem, but over time became shockingly and personally real to teenagers during that time. A similar theme, the omnipresence of war, is seen in Knowles’ work. When Knowles was writing his novel, the Baby Boomers were reaching college were entering the adult world around the time of this novel’s release. ENotes goes on to say, “Brought up in prosperity and peace, these children questioned the morality and authority of their parents’ generation and pursued individual fulfillment.” (2). As the Baby Boomers entered adult life, they began questioning what was right and wrong, the validity of the previous generations’ claims, and the authority those generations had over their own generation. This is a key part of the development of any generation, and Knowles’ was no exception. This feeling was likely something he understood…show more content…
In Chapter Eight of the novel, Finny says, “Have you swallowed all that war stuff?” (114) This shows the viewpoint of war being far-off and distant, but later in the novel, we see in Chapter 12 this viewpoint changes. Finny says then, “I was going to keep on saying it [there is no war] until two seconds after I got a letter from Ottawa or Chungking or some place saying, ‘Yes, you can enlist with us’...Then there would have been a war.” (190) This shows that as war drew closer, Finny finally admitted to himself that the war was indeed a reality, something teenagers from across America admitted during World War II. As a representation of youthful innocence, Finny’s viewpoints represent a generation’s views on the previous generation. These cultural views on the previous generation and war would have affected Knowles, and therefore his writing.
The biographical, religious, and cultural concepts and events surrounding Knowles helped him develop and drive home his themes such as jealousy, harmony, innocence, maturity, and war. These themes present in A Separate Peace are universally constant. Since the beginning of time, people have broken apart, come together, matured, and fought, and these trends will continue until humanity is wiped out completely. This allows the readers to identify with the characters of Gene, Finny, Leper, and Brinker on a personal level, making this book a classic to
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