Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
John Knowles, American novelist, short-story writer, and essayist, was born September 16, 1926, in Fairmont, West Virginia, the son of the vice president of a major coal company. In 1945 Knowles completed his high school education at Phillips Exeter Academy, a private boys’ school in New Hampshire, and then went to Yale University, where he earned a B.A. in English in 1949. While at the university, he served as editor of the Yale Daily News, and several of his early stories were published in student magazines. From 1950 to 1952, Knowles was a reporter for the Hartford Courant in Connecticut. He then turned to freelance writing for several years, then served as an associate editor of Holiday magazine from 1957 to 1960.
During this ten-year period Knowles was already writing short sketches of what would later be the subject matter of his first novel; he detailed the struggles of adolescent boys striving to discover their mature selves within the restrictive environment of a boarding school. His short story “A Turn With the Sun,” written in 1949 when he was twenty-three years old, details the accidental death by drowning of a prep school boy scorned by his classmates. This was followed by “Phineas,” written in 1953 and published in May, 1956, by Cosmopolitan magazine, an early rendering of what would later be reworked as the first four chapters of A Separate Peace (1959). In this...
(The entire section is 631 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Although strong critical acclaim such as he received for A Separate Peace came to John Knowles only once in his prolific writing career, he is nevertheless generally recognized as a writer of considerable skill, able to create striking verbal images of that interior world in which everyone struggles with fear of failure in resisting seemingly uncontrollable pride and jealousy. His central theme is that the only true path to achieving victory over such a common human fear is through acceptance of the common human need for loving forgiveness of others’ and one’s own inner weaknesses. This theme has appeal for the reading public beyond that of Knowles’s literary skills. It is for his insightful expression of this theme, particularly in his tale of Gene and Phineas, that he is most noted.
Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
John Knowles, the third of four children of James Myron and Mary Beatrice Shaw Knowles, was born in the coal mining town of Fairmont, West Virginia, in 1926. After attending public schools in Fairmont through the ninth grade, Knowles left home at fifteen to attend Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. He entered the prestigious preparatory school in the fall of 1942 as a “lower middler,” or sophomore. He found Phillips Exeter very challenging. In 1943 he attended a special summer wartime session there and joined a group called the Suicide Society, the members of which jumped from a tall tree on the campus into a river below. Because of a bad fall from this tree, Knowles was on crutches for a while with a foot injury. After graduating from Exeter in 1945, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces’ Aviation Cadet Program, qualifying as a pilot.
Subsequently, he attended Yale University, where he majored in English and was on the editorial board of the Yale Daily. While at Yale he also submitted stories to the Yale Record, the university’s humor magazine, was invited to join Yale’s Wiffenpoofs, and was a member of the varsity swimming team. For his senior essay at Yale he wrote a novel. He graduated from Yale in 1949 and went to work as a reporter and drama critic for the Hartford Courant. In 1952 he became a freelance writer and lived for the next several years in Europe. There he wrote a novel called “Descent to...
(The entire section is 467 words.)
Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
John Knowles was born in 1926, in the small town of Fairmont, West Virginia, a declining coal-based town. He was the third of four children born to James Myron and Mary Beatrice Shaw Knowles. At age fifteen he left home and attended Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. After an early graduation, Knowles enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces Aviation Cadet Program and qualified as a pilot. Discharged in 1945, Knowles attended Yale University, majored in English, and served as editor of the Yale Daily News. After receiving his degree, Knowles worked as a reporter for the Hartford Courant and later as a correspondent and editor for Holiday magazine. For several years he traveled and lived in southern Europe. Returning to the United States in 1955, he began to write several short stories, which eventually became the foundation for his first novel. After the death of his father in 1970, Knowles relocated to Long Island, where he began writing a novel about his late friend, novelist Truman Capote.
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
A Separate Peace, the first novel of John Knowles (nohlz), has been one of the most widely read books in the American school system. Knowles grew up in the small city of Fairmont, West Virginia, in the 1930’s when it was a coal town in decline. In 1942 he left for Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Because the school during the years of World War II instituted an “anticipatory plan” that allowed boys to receive their diplomas early, before being drafted into the armed services, Knowles finished his studies in the summer of 1944 and was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Corps. He qualified as an aviation cadet and spent eight months in training programs in the United States before being discharged in 1945 when the war ended.
Upon returning to civilian life, Knowles attended Yale University, majoring in English and writing for student publications. After graduating in 1949 he went to work as a reporter for a Hartford, Connecticut, newspaper and later as a correspondent and editor for Holiday magazine. In 1952 he became a freelance writer and traveled extensively in Europe, where he began writing a novel, to be entitled Descent into Proslito. On the advice of Thornton Wilder, who had become his mentor, he decided against trying to publish the work. In 1955 he returned to the United States and began to write short stories that would be the seed from which his novel A Separate Peace would grow. In 1959 the British edition of A Separate Peace was published; the critical reception was so favorable that an American publisher bought the rights. Although initial sales of the hardcover edition were not huge, the critics liked the novel, and it won Knowles two awards for fiction.
A Separate Peace grew out of Knowles’s schoolboy experiences at Phillips Exeter and is a classic coming-of-age story. The title is taken from Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (1929) and alludes to the fact that Knowles’s protagonist also declares a private armistice in the midst of a war. The war that provides the historical background in A Separate Peace is World War II,...
(The entire section is 920 words.)