A Separate Peace
by John Knowles
Author Information
About the Novel
World War II
Life at Prep School
Author Information
• Born on September,
16,1926, in Fairmont, West
• Left home at fifteen to
attend Phillips Exeter
Academy, a prestigious
boarding school in New
• After graduation, he spent
eight months in the U.S. Air
Force, then enrolled at Yale
University, which awarded
him a bachelor’s degree in
Author Information
• He worked as a journalist and free-lance writer
from 1950-1956.
• He traveled through Europe at this time and
began to publish short stories.
• In 1957 he became an associate editor at Holiday
• Published his first novel, A Separate Peace, in
• The success of this novel allowed him to resign
his position as editor and devote his time to
traveling and writing fiction
Author Information
• He has published eight novels, a book on
travel, and a collection of stories.
• Lectured at Princeton University & University
of North Carolina
• None of Knowles’ s later novels received
critical and popular acclaim that greeted A
Separate Peace
• Knowles often explores the effects of greed,
competitiveness, and emotional repression on
his characters, many of whom are affluent
About the Novel
• Developed from his short
story “Phineas”
• He began writing the
novel in 1954, when he
was 28
• Eleven publishers in the
U.S. rejected his
manuscript before a
London publisher finally
accepted it
• Published in U.S. in 1960
• Over 9 million copies
have been sold
About the Novel
• It won the William Faulkner
Foundation Award for a
notable first novel & the
Rosenthal Award of the
national Institute of Arts and
• The character Gene Forrester
is modeled after Knowles
• Phineas is modeled after his
friend, David Hackett, a
member of the 1948 U.S.
Hockey Team
• According to Knowles, “By no
means did all the incidents
happen as portrayed, but the
emotional truth of it comes
out of my life.”
World War II
• A Separate Peace is set against the background of
World War II, which lasted from?
• 1939 -1945.
• The war pitted the Allied against the Axis powers
• Who were the Allied powers?
• (U.S., Britain, the Soviet Union, and France)
• Who were the Axis powers?
• (Germany, Italy, & Japan)
• When did the U.S. enter the war?
• In 1941 after Japan launched a surprise attack
against U.S. military installations at Pearl harbor,
• Nearly every part of the globe was affected by
fighting .
• Estimates of the number of people killed range
from ?
• 35 million to 60 million.
• Who were the Allied Leaders Mentioned in the
• Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain
• Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French Force in
• Chiang Kai-shek, Chinese military and political figure
• Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of U.S.
• Joseph Stalin, Premier of Soviet Union
World War II on the Homefront
• Teenage boys were more
sheltered than boys from
Europe from the effects of
World War II.
• Many however were
preoccupied with the war
for many of them were
certain that they would
have to serve in the armed
• At many prep schools the
Anticipatory Program was
established to allow
students to complete their
high school education
before they reached the
draft age of 18.
World War II
• The curriculum was altered
to emphasize subjects
recommended by the armed
services, such as
trigonometry, foreign
languages, first aid, Morse
code, and rifle
• Knowles once described the
loss of young teachers:
“Most of the faculty was
over 50 and there was not
too much rapport between
teachers and students. For
the most part, we were left
pretty much on our own.”
World War II
• The U.S. started drafting men
in Sept. of 1940, a year before
entering the war.
• All men between 18 and 64
had to register for service (the
oldest drafted was actually
• Nearly two-thirds of the U.S.
soldiers were drafted.
• A few deferments were
granted to men in the fields of
agriculture and industrial
• Others were rejected due to
medical problems.
• Although no battles
were fought in the
U.S., World War II
had a strong impact
on civilian life.
• Women and
minorities were
encouraged to work
in industries that
they were once
excluded from.
• Communities all
over the nation
organized scrap
drives, collecting
metal and other
materials that
could be useful for
• The government
rationed gasoline,
rubber, and certain
food products.
• Posters, motion
pictures, and
publicity events
Americans of the
need to remain
united and support
the war effort.
Life at Prep School
• The Devon School is modeled after Phillips
Exeter Academy.
• There they learned social skills that will help
them fill prominent roles in society.
• The students live on campus & the tuition
approaches the level of ivy league schools.
• Schools resembled lavish country clubs with
impressive architecture, first-rate sporting
facilities, and grounds that stretch for
hundreds of acres.
Life at Prep School
• Since students live apart from their families,
they tend to form deep and lasting
• Life at prep schools can also be demanding
with intense pressures to succeed, little free
time, &. lack of privacy.
• For loners & less competitive students,
adapting to this environment can be extremely
• Who was Gene Forester?
• Gene Forester- This character is the
narrator & protagonist whose envy of Finny
eventually leads to his untimely demise. He
is also suspicious of Finny's motivations
since his cynical attitude causes him to think
that no individual could be as completely
pure as Finny. So, he projects his own
devious nature on other people.
• Who was Phineas?
• Phineas- He is a nonconformist &
antagonist who fails to acknowledge school
regulations and tradition. This free-spirited
behavior is illustrated in his consistent
lateness to dinner, wearing the school tie as
a belt, wearing a pink shirt, and organizing
the Super Suicide Society of the Summer
• Who is Brinker
• Brinker Hadley-This
character is an elitist
student leader that is
concerned about losing
his power to Finny's
popularity.He is
politically inclined ,
somewhat conservative,
and very concerned
about the proper thing
in any situation.
• Who was Edward Lepellier?
• Edward Lepellier - He is an isolationist &
naturalist that was ridiculed by his classmates.
He is important in the events of the novel since
he was present when Finny "fell" from the oak
tree. Leper surprises his classmates by choosing
to enlist in the paratroopers after watching an
army recruiter video, although he later deserts
the army and returns to his Vermont home
suffering insanity.
• Chet Douglas, Bobby
Zane, & Brownie
Perkins - minor
characters. Each
exemplify the perfect
Devon student; obling
and considerate,
therefore having no
hope of being
• Mr. Prud’homme, Mr.
Patch-Withers, & Mr.
Ludsbury- Devon
• Dr. Stanpole-is the kindhearted school physician
who treats Finny’s injured
leg and advises Gene on
how to best help Finny.
• Phil Latham- school
wrestling coach
• Mr. Hadley- Brinker’s
father, proponent that
one’s greatest privilege and
greatest moment is to serve
one’s country and one’s
goal should be to achieve a
“military record you can
be proud of.”
• What are the major
• Man vs. Man
(External Conflict)
Gene vs. Finny
• Man vs. Himself
(Internal Conflict)
Gene vs. himself
• Man vs. Society
Students vs.
Challenge of
becoming soldiers
(face the reality of
the war)
• Jealousy: Gene is envious
of Finny's natural athletic
• Irresponsibility: Finny
refuses to follow the
school's regulations
• Denial: Finny denies that
Gene pushed him out of the
tree, since he believes that
all people are innately good.
• Insecurity: Gene is
insecure about his own
ability and intelligence.
• Friendship: Gene &
Finny are supposedly “best
• Understanding conflict within yourself is a
necessary part of growing up.
• Friendship grows through conflict, resolving
differences, forgiveness, and accepting strengths
and weaknesses of each other.
• A person’s own insecurities may cause him or her
to misinterpret a friend’s actions or words.
• Personal joys and pains are felt more strongly
than even great public events, such as war.
• There can be no end to aggression and war and
rivalry and hate, there can be no freedom on a
worldwide scale, until each individual can
confront and conquer the “ignorance” in his or
her own heart-that fear of imagined enemies.
• **Tree - war; friendship; hostility & envy;
Garden of Eden, man’s fall from perfection
• Trip to Beach - friendship is declared and
admitted; finny is the leader /role-model &
Gene is the follower
• **The River-clean Devon=goodness vs. dirty
• Blitzball-Finny’s interest in war & his
leadership amongst other boys
• Devon School- U.S. isolation from fighting
Europe at the beginning of the war
• Olympic Games- dream, Finny can no longer play
sports….it didn’t mean that he does not have any
influence just because a direct participation is not
• The Trial- Finny learns the truth; Brinker tries to
“convict Gene” who is also his competitor
• Woods- escape from Gene’s problems
• Finny- goodness, Christ
• Gene-savage, darker side of humanity
• Leper-gentle souls escape from the grotesque
elements of reality by developing a mental illness
• Brinker- represents individuals who because of
some change in perspective, become disillusioned
with their former ideals; “Justice Incarnate”
• “Rite of Passage”
• Eden
• Good vs. Evil…..rivers, paradise
of Devon vs. rest of world,
summer with Finny vs. winter
• The two rivers…the upper clear, refreshing
stream vs. the lower, an ugly, salty marsh
• War in Europe vs. Peace at Devon, the U.S.
• Adulthood and Adolescence
• Private vs. Public War
• Life of Conformity/Discipline vs.Life of
• Present Time vs. the Past
• Studious Types vs. Athletic/ carefree types
• Rococo (Rococo was characterized by an opulence, grace, playfulness, and
lightness) vs. Puritan architecture (plain style - a mode of
expression characterized by simplicity, accessibility, and the absence of
• Army recruiters vs. teaching Masters
**a typical, ideal, or classic example of
something; something that serves as the
model or pattern for other things of the
same type

A Separate Peace - Klein Independent School District