A Separate Peace: Comparison

Essay by emalekJunior High, 9th gradeA+, January 2009

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A Separate Peace is one of John Knowles' most acclaimed works and is based on Knowles' stay at Phillip Exeter Academy in the early-to-mid 1940's. It is set in a New England boarding school for boys known as Devon, and begins in 1958 but quickly flashes back to the years 1942 and 1943. In these years at the peak of World War II we follow through the eyes and mind of first-person narrator and protagonist Gene Forrester, as he copes internally with jealousy and hate, and externally with the oncoming draft. As is the fate of many great novels it quickly hit the big screen, and in 1972 a film version of A Separate Peace made its first debut, directed by Larry Peerce, and starring Parker Stevensen as 'Gene' and John Heyl as 'Finny'. Though the movie conveyed the theme - Gene a misled and surreptitiously violent student at Devon makes peace with himself and the world - many symbolic elements, important aspects, and minor details are lost in the transition from novel to film.

The first noted difference between the movie and book is that an the novel, before the flashback while Gene is revisiting Devon he remarks that he wants to visit two places: "I reached a marble foyer, and stopped at the foot of a long white marble flight of stairs." And: "There were several trees bleakly reaching into the fog. Any one of them might be the one I was looking for." Strangely in the movie Gene only visits the tree, we can infer that the stair scene is omitted because it might give away the ending too soon. For instance seeing a tree doesn't necessarily hint at the further content, while seeing stairs and a tree may result in someone making the...