By using young characters what is Knowles trying to point out about war?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm not sure John Knowles deliberately used young people as his characters in A Separate Peace just so he could make a statement about war.  I do, however, think his use of young people adds to his commentary about both war and life and growing up in difficult times.  From beginning to end, the story of Gene and Finny at Devon School is tinted by the war.  They talk about, joke about, prepare for, think about, make their decisions around, and have lots of varied emotions about the war which is raging around them.  It's the backdrop for all these young boys say and do, so it can't be ignored.  And I think that's the point.  There was no escaping it; even if they managed not to be actually personally involved in the war, they were still in a war.  A war of doubt, indecision, uncertainty, hopelessness and myriad other things.  It shaped who they were then, clearly, as well as who they became--as evidenced by a grown-up Gene as he returns to the scene of that life-changing time.  There were many casualties of the war, whether they fought in an actual battle or not.  Look at Leper and Brinker and Gene and, of course, Finny.  Growing up was a war; juxtaposed with an actual war, this war takes on even greater significance.

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A Separate Peace

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