A Separate Peace is a mind riveting novel dealing with adolescent development and one boy's struggle to understand himself and the world in times of turmoil. Through flashbacks, Gene, the main character, recollects his experiences at Devon School where he was a student some fifteen years prior. .
I feel that the novel A Separate Peace is truly focused on two wars. One war is the internal struggle that Gene faces daily, the battle within himself in his mind. The other war is more obviously World War II which rages on in Europe.
Through many examples one may see that Gene is fighting his own war within himself to achieve self understanding and acceptance. I feel that although Gene is a strong character in the story, he lacks self assurance. This is shown by his need for his friend Finny. Finny happens not only to be very popular, but also a standout athlete. I feel that Gene finds his own pride in his best friend, Finny, because he is struggling to accept himself and his abilities. As Gene's internal struggle rages on, his envy turns to jealousy towards his friend and this jealously turns to rage ultimately ending in Finny becoming crippled when Gene causes him to fall from a tree. Guilt and shame now rule Gene's life. From this, I believe one may be cautioned to be one's self rather than trying to become someone else. There is much to be learned from the pain experienced by Gene as he battles an internal war and travels down the path to adulthood.
World War II functions as a background of the novel. I think it is interesting that John Knowles named his novel A Separate Peace. "A separate peace" refers to the Devon School that Gene attends. Although in a secluded New England atmosphere, it is obvious that even the Devon students do not escape the war and there is truly no peace in their minds. This is vividly shown through Gene's struggle to decide whether to live in safety at Devon School or to enter the adult world by enlisting in the war.