War Symbolism In A Separate Peace

1222 Words 5 Pages
World War II as a Symbol in A Separate Peace
In A Separate Peace, John Knowles uses World War II to symbolize denial of conflict and feelings, the reality of impending adulthood, and internal conflict in the minds of Gene and Finny. The war and the question of whether or not to enlist are omnipresent worries in the minds of the boys at the Devon School in New Hampshire. Although World War II is a major conflict in the novel, the various forms of strife it symbolizes are much more significant in the development of Knowles’ story.
World War II symbolizes denial in many forms. For much of the novel, Finny refuses to believe that the war actually exists, referring to the combat as “nothing more than a ploy concocted by fat, old, wealthy men” (Adney
…show more content…
Finny truly sees the effects of the war when Leper returns to campus after a disconcerting stint in the military (Bryfonski 59). Denial is also seen in Gene’s fear of self-confrontation. Gene refuses to accept Leper Lepellier’s “wisdom of woe,” which refers to Leper’s mental breakdown during his time in military training, despite the fact that the two boys are experiencing an identity crisis (Bryfonski 52). Finny wholeheartedly rejects the indication that Gene purposefully jounced the limb. When Gene attempts to confess his responsibility for the incident, Finny refuses to recognize Gene as the guilty party (Rowe 3). Finny cannot accept the fact that his best friend would purposefully cause him harm (Rowe 3). Both of the boys are resolute in their denial of Gene’s misdeed, which causes tension and distrust …show more content…
The Devon school acted as an insulator from the conflict raging around the world in the 1940s. In this sense, World War II can be seen as a symbol of reality. The boys at Devon at first appear to be “protected from the war” (Adney 4). At the outset, Gene and his friends were the epitome of freedom, envied by the older faculty for their blissful ignorance concerning the war (Adney 4). The only conflict faced by Finny at the beginning of the novel is that involving athletics (Bryfonski 53). As the novel progresses, we see the Devon boys gain more responsibility and lose the carefree nature displayed in the Summer Session. During the fall and winter terms, it is rare to see the boys as joyous as they were during the summer session. A brief instance in which Finny can be observed displaying this childlike joy occurs when he first returns to Devon after recovering from his injury. Caught in the midst of a snowball fight, Finny and his friends are described as “a world away from the adult conflict that led to Leper’s mental crippling” (Bryfonski 53). In this brief period of time before the war, Gene, Finny, and Brinker are “full of potential” and believe that they have many options available to them until they are confronted with reality (Adney 4). We can see the increasing presence of the war during the final term of the school year, during which the campus became host to a large

Related Documents