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John Knowles's novel A Separate Peace (1959) provided an excellent opportunity to once again make sure that the American school curriculum in which it is included is correctly drawn up. For any teenager from any country at the age of 15-16, the problem of internal aggression is relevant. Perhaps in some ways, this book anticipates the motives of Stephen King's Rage (1978), but everything here is much calmer and more measured, with no hostages, and no bloodshed. The scene is an isolated little world of a private American school, whose graduates are preparing to go to the front straight from school. But the main role in this novel is not assigned to the Second World War.
The Piece and Its Analysis
A leisurely story about studying at a closed school for boys unfolds against the backdrop of the events of the distant Second World War. Two students, Jean and Phineas, as different as two teenagers can be, spend the summer semester at school, not really devoting time to studying. The narrative is slow and viscous, the actions of the characters do not always seem logical, and the characters themselves do not evoke sympathy and empathy. Phineas and Gene can hardly be called friends in the classical sense of the word since there is some kind of rivalry between them, an attempt to prove something to each other and others (Sansom 23). On one instance, they recklessly throw themselves into the pool with their heads, and in the literal sense, Finney comes up with jumps from a tree into the water, and if a gun hangs on the wall, then, as we know, it will definitely shoot.
Gene, a serious, well-read boy who loves to study rather than idle, is the complete opposite of Finny, a slob and a ringleader, a lover of sports, active games, and an inventor, he incites Gene and others to rash acts for the sake of adrenaline. Friends are getting news from the battlefield, and they certainly need to join the ranks of the army. They are not driven by a thirst for glory, not by a desire to serve their country; they know nothing of the war and its horrors. They are driven by a thirst for romance, the unknown, participation in the thick of things, and while it seems to them that life is passing by in a boring school, they seem to be bogged down in liquid syrup and a sultry haze of a prolonged summer (Knowles 15). Throughout the book, it gradually becomes evident that the characters, while being opposites on the outside, are very much alike from within, thus, being able to bond rather quickly.
More important here is the war that is being waged in the soul of the protagonist, who suddenly decided that his best friend is actually his worst enemy. In essence, this is a story about a war with the dark half, which is an integral part of the soul of every person; that the real enemy is inside, not somewhere outside, and the threat posed by our deepest rage is often more real than any external threat. And this is also a story about the consequences, a minute flash is followed by a long life, during which a person has to remember everything and nothing is given to forget (Laubender). Hence, A Separate Peace is a multi-layered narrative with a set of different themes and meanings that managed to manifest a great idea about being human and carrying out this responsibility with decency.
In America, this novel has become a classic and is studied in schools. The story will tell us about a year in a closed school and about the tragic events that could not but leave imprints on the souls of the participants, they grew up. It is hard to define this book as a "subtle psychological coming-of-age novel" because it leaves more questions than it answers. The protagonist tells a story from his life, but in a detached way, without giving his own assessment, as if it were a newsreel tape and not a summer that turned his life upside down.
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. Scribner, 2014.
Laubender, Carolyn. "Getting Into Character: On Psychoanalysis And Literature In The Classroom". Psychoanalysis, Culture &Amp; Society, 2022. Springer Science And Business Media LLC, https://doi.org/10.1057/s41282-022-00300-5. Accessed 16 June 2022.
Sansom, Judy. "The Tree Of Panic In A Separate Peace". Kansas English, vol 99, no. 1, 2018, pp. 22-24. The University Libraries, https://journals.wichita.edu/index.php/ke/article/view/199. Accessed 16 June 2022
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