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A Separate Peace

By John Knowles

Grade Literature

The tree was not only stripped by the cold season, it seemed weary from age, enfeebled, dry. I was thankful,
very thankful that I had seen it. So the more things remain the same, the more they change after all.
Changed, I headed back through the mud. I was drenched; anybody could see it was time to come in out of the
-A Separate Peace
For this novel, we will not just read and discuss. For the most part, you are doing
the reading and analyzing on your own as you read the novel at home, and then we
will discuss it when you get back. However, you will have a focus and guided questions
to help steer you in the direction we will follow in class. This is a book-noting packet,
which means whatever directions or questions that are posed in this packet will not be
answered on a paper. You will highlight, mark up, and tab them in your own book. I
will collect the book for an assignment grade. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but
its actually not.
Now, of course, we will not discuss everything in John Knowles A Separate
Peacethats not possible with the time we havebut thats the point of this packet. It
basically tells you what our focus is. So what do you have to do? Its simple. Buy book
tabs and a highlighter. Yes, you must use tabs. Its easier for both you and me. Its
organized, and its required. Then read the notes in the packet and follow the directions
in highlighting, noting, and/or tabbing anything on the Tasks page.
Im sure you will enjoy reading this novel. Its a realistic depiction of the dark side
of human nature and the change two friends undergo when innocence is lost.
NOTES: for you to read
Background Material on the Author:

Author John Knowles was born in 1926 in Fairmont, West Virginia, deep in the heart of coal-mining
country. Although some of his works reflect his West Virginia rootsin A Vein of Riches, for example, he tells
the story of an early twentieth-century miners strikeKnowless best-known works are set in New England.
His father and mother were originally from Massachusetts, and the family often spent summer vacations
Knowless love of New England stems from his experiences as a student. At the age of fifteen, he
applied to an elite New Hampshire boarding school, Phillips Exeter Academy. Much to his surprise, he was
All of my books are based on places, places I know very well and
feel very deeply about. I begin with that place and then the
characters and the plot emerge from it. . . A Separate Peace
began with a playing field at Exeter Academy. John Knowles
admitted. At first, Knowles felt out of place. He has said that his classmates seemed too eastern for me, too
Yankee, too tough, and that he found the New Hampshire winter breathtakingly cold. Moreover, his grades
were not the best. He admits: It quickly seemed probable that I would flunk out.
. . . Then somehow or other I knuckled down, learned by myself how to study, discovered I had a brain
which had more potential than a knack for writing, and by the end of that first term, I was passing every
course comfortably. . . . Meanwhile, I was falling in love with Exeter.
Knowless affection for the school is reflected in his firstand most famousnovel, A Separate Peace.
Shortly after Knowles entered Exeter, the United Sates declared war on Japan and entered World War
II. Like other young men of the time, Knowles went into the military after he graduated from high school. He
trained to be a pilot in the United States Army Air Force aviation program, but when the war ended he
decided to go back to school. He attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he received a
bachelors degree in 1949.
During his twenties, Knowles traveled and earned a living as a
freelance writer. He wrote the stories Phineas and A Turn in the Sun,
which were to form the core of A Separate Peace. Knowles then took a
job as an associate editor of a travel magazine. Early each morning,
before going to the office, he worked on A Separate Peace.
The novel, which was first published in England in 1959 and
the United States in 1960, proved to be a successso much that
Knowles was able to resign from his job and devote his time to writing
and to travel. Since then, Knowles has written a variety of novels, a
short story collection, a travel book, and several essays. None of these
works has been as successful as A Separate Peace, but the fact does not
seem to trouble him. He says that because he does not write with a
particular audience in mind he is delighted that he has found any
audience at all. Knowles may be too modest. He is likely to continue to
have an audience for many years to come. Today, Knowles lives in Fort
Lauderdale, Florida, where he still writes.

Setting: The work is set at Devon, a private boarding school in New
Hampshire on the Atlantic Coast during World War II. Two rivers run through the
school's campus, one is the Devon River (fresh water) and the other is the
Naguamsett River (salt water, swamp like consistency). Some of the work's action
revolves around a predominate oak tree overhanging a creek.
In the middle of a war.


Guilt: Gene feels remorse but cannot come to terms with
what he did.
Insecurity and identity: Gene is insecure about his own
ability and intelligence.
Friendship and Jealousy: Gene and Finny are friends but
have different values for friendship.
Innocence vs Growing up: The narrator has a different
perspective upon returning to Exeter years later and
notices how he is now is different than how he was, a
child of careless peace

The marble staircase
The tree
Finnys fall
Essential Questions: for you to think about
What causes jealousy between friends?
What factors seem to be a threat to friendship?
Is war a necessary evil?
Is sin inevitable?
Is redemption possible?
How should we deal with guilt?
Does competition bring out the best or worst in people?
Is the loss of innocence inevitable?
What does the authors attitude toward war seem to be?
What does the authors attitude toward human nature seem to be?
How do the effects of war on this generation compare to the effects on the boys in the novel?
Do we need to accept the reality of evil in the human heart & world to survive?
Related Reading:
XL. "Into my heart an air that kills..."
by A. E. Housman (1859-1936)
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
In this poem, the speaker looks back on his younger days with painful nostalgia.

Highlight the following vocabulary words in yellow any time you come across them.
Chapters 1-5
1. anarchy n. disorder; absence of rules
2. enfeebled adj. weakened; depleted
3. indulgent adj. permissive
4. inure v. to become used to something unpleasant
5. inveigle v. to entice; to trick into something
6. nondescript adj. uninteresting; drab
7. sedate adj. calm; serene
8. tacit adj. unspoken

Chapters 6-10
9. extrovert n. outgoing person who enjoys the company of other people
10. funereal adj. solemn as befitting a funeral
11. gullible adj. easily tricked; naive
12. idiosyncratic adj. peculiar; eccentric
13. implausibility n. unlikeliness; unbelievability
14. sinecure n. position, usually salaried, that requires little or no work
15. sultriness n. humidity; heat

Chapters 11-13
16. forlornly adv. miserably; desolately
17. impervious adj. resistant; inaccessible
18. incarnate adj. in the flesh
19. incomprehensible adj. not understandable; mysterious
20. incongruity n. inconsistency; disharmony
21. latent adj. potential; inactive
22. timbre n. the quality of a sound; tone
Heres an example of a booknoted page.

1. Identify and tab the beginning
and end of each flashback that
occurs in the novel and briefly
comment on its purpose and
importance. PINK
2. After reading each chapter,
make up a relevant title for each
chapter. Actually write this in
your book.
3. As you read Chapters 11
through 13, look for the climax,
which will suddenly change the
course of events for the main
characters. Place a tab where
you believe the climax occurs
and briefly comment (in the
actual book) on why you believe
so. PINK
4. Conflict: Highlight in GREEN
any instance that an external
and internal conflict occurs.
Make sure you dedicate a
different color for the two types
of conflicts.
5. Review the themes of (1) Friendship, (2) Identity, and (3) guilt and highlight in
BLUE any quotes that support these themes. Also label them 1, 2, or 3
6. Highlight and tab any important details about three symbolsthe marble staircase,
the tree, and Finnys fall. ORANGE

*Please pay attention to the highlighter colors in the tasks. You will be responsible for keeping
up with this.

**Not every page will be marked. Please do not go overboard. These are six simple things and
lets keep it simple and just focus on these things.