A Separate Peace Overview Powerpoint

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A Separate Peace
By John Knowles
“Nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not
even a death by violence.”
A Separate Peace
A Separate Peace is a classic story of a young man’s
emergence from adolescence. The novel is
somewhat autobiographical, as it is based on
Knowles’s own experiences as a student at Phillips
Exeter Academy in New Hampshire during World
War II.
John Knowles
Author John Knowles
• Born in 1926
in West
• Best known
works are set
in New
Knowles’ Childhood
• Parents were originally from Massachusetts.
• Knowles spent many summer vacations there.
• At the age of fifteen, Knowles applied to an
elite New Hampshire boarding school, Phillips
Exeter Academy.
John Knowles continued…
• Knowles expresses his affections and fond memories
for his boarding school memories in A Separate
• Soon after Knowles entered Exeter, the U.S. declared
war on Japan and entered World War II.
• Knowles went into the military after he graduated
from high school and trained to be a pilot in the U.S.
Army Air Force Aviation Program.
• When the war ended, he attended Yale University in
New Haven, Connecticut.
A Separate Peace
• The novel was first published in England in
1959 and in the U.S. in 1960.
• It proved to be such a success that Knowles
was able to resign from his job and devote his
time to writing and travel.
• He wrote many other novels, none as
successful as A Separate Peace.
• He lived in Fort Lauderdale, FL, before
passing away in 2001.
Character List
• Gene Forrester is the
novel's narrator, and he
tells the story as a
flashback, reflecting on his
days at the Devon School
from the vantage point of
• Finny energetic and
vibrant, Finny is a
tremendous athlete;
friendly and verbally
adroit, he is able to talk his
way out of any situation.
• Elwin “Leper” Lepellier is
a quiet, peaceful, natureloving boy.
•Brinker Hadley is, in many
ways, a foil to Finny. Also
charismatic and a leader of the
Devon boys, Brinker wields a
power comparable but opposite
to Finny's.
Internal Conflicts
According to Knowles, the major concern of the novel is to
expose and explore the 2 conflicting psychological forces
within the “American Character”:
1. One is a creative and expressive force, “a germ of wildness”
2. The other, is a more conservative force that identifies with
established institutions such as governments, academic
settings, and accepted values.
In ASP this conflict is symbolically represented in the
personalities of the 2 main characters. Gene Forrester, the
narrator, is “the cautious Protestant” who is both attracted
to and frightened by the “germ of wildness” he sees in the
powerful personality of his roommate, Phineas. Over time,
each boy acquires traits from the other. Although the focus of
the novel is on Gene’s resolution of his conflicts with Phineas,
it is apparent that Phineas also achieves a “separate peace.”
• Devon School in New Hampshire
• The central story begins less than a year after
December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii.
• World War II: September 1939 to September
• Called the “World” war because a majority of
the world’s nations split into one of two
opposing sides:
– Allies- included Russia, U.S.A, United Kingdom,
and China.
– Axis- included Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and
Imperial Japan
World War II
• The most devastating
war in history.
• Loss of human life
estimated at 72 million.
• Two-thirds of victims
were civilians.
• Holocaust victims
numbered in the
U.S. Involvement
• The U.S. entered the World
War after Pearl Harbor.
• Fear of war caused many Americans to turn a blind
eye to the conflicts overseas.
• Pearl Harbor changed everything.
• 1940 brought the first peacetime draft in the nation’s
– Men 21-35 years of age were required to register for
military service.
– Age then lowered to eighteen.
• Many young men couldn’t wait to be drafted;
patriotism was at an all-time high.
• Teenagers often felt it was their duty to enlist.
Patriotism and Change
• The war brought changes to the American economy
and lifestyle.
– Need for weapons created jobs.
– Americans attended rallies, bought war bonds, conserved
fuel and rubber by car pooling, and planted “victory
– Society also began changing and adjusting due to the “man
• In short, American life, as it had been, changed “for
the duration”- a phrase that meant “until the end of
the war.”
External Conflicts
• The most important aspect of the novel’s
background is WWII and its impact on the
lives of young Americans. World War II
began in 1939 and ended in 1945. ASP is set
during the years 1942 and 1943, when it
seemed that the fighting might continue
• The virtual certainty of young men being
drafted into a bloody war upon graduation
from school informs the background of A
Separate Peace. The United States drafted
more than ten million men for service in
World War II; of these, more than five
hundred thousand were killed or wounded.
Students nearing graduation-like Gene,
Finny, and Brinker-knew they would face the
draft very soon. Some students sought to
avoid dangerous service in the infantry by
volunteering for special programs before
being called-for example, Leper Lepellier’s
enlistment in the ski troops and the plans
Gene and Brinker discuss in Chapter 13.
• World War II resulted from the threat of
aggressive expansion in Europe by
Germany and in the Pacific by Japan. Upon
the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the
Japanese on December 7, 1941, America
finally declared war in both Europe and the
Pacific. By 1942, the year in which ASP is
set, Germany had overrun Norway, France,
Belgium, and the Netherlands in the west,
and had thrust deep into Russia in the east.
• During the period covered by the
novel, the US was just beginning to
make its presence felt by joining
British bombers in air attacks over
Germany. The final phase of the
European war began on June 6, 1994,
when the allies announced a massive
invasion of Normandy. After intense
fighting across the European
continent, the war ended Europe on
May 8, 1945; the Japanese
surrendered some four months later.
External Conflicts
• Another important item in the story’s cultural
background is its setting –
– a private preparatory school modeled on Phillips
Exeter and similar institutions in New England
traditionally prepared an elite group of young men
for Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and other Ivy League
colleges. Privileged by wealth and family
connections, their students joined exclusive clubs in
college and then took places reserved for them in the
business world and in the highest social circles. Such
New England boarding schools have been the
traditional training ground for America’s aristocracy.
Today most preparatory schools are coeducational,
but they still provide a rigorous education for a
selected few.
Major Themes
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1. Understanding conflict within
yourself is a necessary part of
growing up
What kind of inner
conflicts can a person
feel about other
How can an inner
conflict be painful or
frightening to
Have you ever
followed an impulse to
do something that you
later regretted?
Have you ever
decided not to do
something that you
later felt you should
have done?
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2. Friendship grows through conflict,
resolving differences, forgiveness, and
accepting strengths and weaknesses of
each other.
Do you think a good
friendship can exist
without conflict?
How can conflicts
between friends be
Do you agree that a
person has to accept
a friend’s weaknesses
as well as strengths?
3. A person’s own insecurities may
cause him or her to misinterpret a
friend’s actions or words.
What kind of
insecurities do
young people
How is it possible
to misinterpret
someone else’s
actions or words in
terms of your own
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4. Personal joys and pains are felt more
strongly than even great public events
such as war.
• Do important public
events such as
local, national, or
political struggles
seem to affect your
personal life?
• Do you think the
threat of war would
influence the way
you feel about your
friends or
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Theme and Motif
• Theme: a broad idea in a story, or a message or
lesson conveyed by a work
– A work can have more than one theme.
• Motif: a reoccurring subject, theme, or idea in
a literary, artistic, or musical work.
• Difference between theme and motif:
– Theme are ideas explored by the text.
– Motifs are reoccurring elements that represent
Themes & Motifs & Genre in
A Separate Peace
• Themes
– Identity- The development of self in the face of peer pressure.
– Man vs. Self- Even in times of war, the most difficult battle is
within the human heart.
• Motifs– Transformation- the characters and the school undergo immense
changes throughout the story.
– Competition- the competitive nature of athletics and of
• Genre– A Separate Peace belongs to a genre of literature called
Bildungsroman. This is a German term which describes a novel
whose main character matures over time, usually from
childhood. (The Outsiders, Harry Potter, The Giver)
What does it mean to “identify with”
someone else?
• Have you ever experienced feeling so
close to a friend that you shared the
same thoughts?
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How does who you are affect what
you do?
•And how do you know who you are?
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