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War in "A Separate Peace"

            War touches everyone in some way; however, very few prefer to describe their involvement with it; yet John Knowles, the writer of A Separate Peace, touches upon many themes involving war. Knowles displays these themes and attitudes of war in his book, A Separate Peace. These attitudes are best displayed through the characterization of the main characters - Gene, Finny, and Leper.
             Leper is the least important of the main characters, but his characterization still holds many important truths about war. Leper's joining of the war makes it seem impossible to the other Devon boys that the war is even real. He was a timid, harmless, peaceful student. What timid student jumps at the chance to join a war? The Devon boys thought it was impossible for a war to be real if a peaceful student like Leper joined it by stating, "For a few days the war was more unimaginable than ever" (Gene 118). They joked about Leper's involvement in the war, putting him in every important war headline in the news. "We talked about Leper's stand at Stalingrad, Leper on the Burma Road, Leper's convoy to Archangel; we surmised that the crisis over the leadership of the Free French would be resolved by the appointment of neither de Gaulle nor Giraud but Lepellier; we knew, better than the newspapers, that it was not the Big Three but the Big Four who were running the war" (Gene 118). However, Leper contacts Gene and tells him of his horrific stories about the war later in the story. He tells of gruesome stories about furniture turning into body parts, a woman's head on a man's body, a corporal approaching him with a leg in his hand. These horrific visions that Gene learns about prove that Leper has gone insane. Moreover, Leper's enlistment in war makes the war seem unreal and impossible, but ironically, his downward spiral to insanity makes the war seem more real than ever for the Devon boys, especially Finny.

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