Good vs. Evil, Wars in "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles

Essay by M.F. LuderHigh School, 11th grade November 1996

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John Knowles novel, A Separate Peace, portrays wars on three distinct levels.

These levels could be described as outer, inner, and world. There is a very good

definition of these wars at the closing of the novel which shows us the levels:

'I could never agree with either of them. It would have been comfortable, but I

could not believe it. Because it seemed clear that wars were not made by generations

and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in

the human heart.' (page 193)

This passage shows that wars go on around the world, all the time people are battling a

never-ending fight. Not necessarily battles like World War II or even a common street

fight or family feud, but battles with mind and emotion that everyone must deal with.

One such battle is that in which Gene deals with throughout the book, the battles

with Finny.

We learn as the story begins that Gene and Finny are best friends. They go

almost everywhere together and they even share a room at their school. We enter the

story at what is called a 'summer session' which could be described as today's equivalent

of summer school. But, as the story unfolds, we are forced to ask ourselves, are they

friends as the appear to be at the start of the novel or are they mortal enemies as Gene

begins to hint with this quote at the point Gene thinks Finny is finally going to 'get away'

with something he did. 'This time he wasn't going to get away with it. I could feel

myself becoming unexpectedly excited at that.'(page 20) This shows us that even though

they are friends, Gene feels that Finny is too perfect and he needs to see a sign...