A Separate Peace is a novel of duality of setting as well as of voice; for, as an adult, Gene Forrester returns to Devon School, a private school of privileged young men, in order to make sense of his personal conflicts while he was a student there. When he first returns, Gene perceives the school as a museum as it appears to be covered with varnish as a preservative. It is a school of classic architecture. Gene notes that it ¨emerged naturally from the town which had produced it" and the houses in this town are of Colonial, Victorian and Greek Revival architecture. Then, the First Academic Building is Georgian as are others, imitative of buildings constructed during the reign of King George V of England.
Later in the narrative (Ch.8), Gene describes how Devon has been rebuilt in a "peculiar style of Puritan grandeur" as if the dramatic splendor of the Versailles with its Baroque design "had been modified for the needs of a Sunday school":
This opulent sobriety betrayed the divided nature of the school....From the outside the buildings were reticent, severe straight lines of red brick or white clapboard with...shutters, and a few unassuming white cupolas... on the roofs...like Pilgrim bonnets.
The two styles of the Devon School are the first of other dualities. The rivers
The Devon’s course was determined by some familiar hills a little inland; it rose among highland farms and forests which we knew, passed at the end of its course through the school grounds, and then threw itself with little spectacle over a small waterfall beside the diving dam, and into the turbid Naguamsett.
Gene remarks further in the narrative that the Naguamsett was muddy as opposed to the freshness of the Devon. He mentions that after the Secret Suicide Society meets, he always has to shower. After he was first thrown into it, he cleans himself as though he had been in the ¨middle of a fight.¨
Of course, the duality of the school's isolated setting away from the war is contrasted to that of World War II. But, Gene draws close parallels between the psychological war in which he has been engaged and that on the world theatre of war."I was on active duty all my time at school: I killed my enemy there." Gene alludes to the historical setting in France of a Maginot Line which the French thought would prevent their enemy, Germany from entering France.
All of them, all except Phineas, constructed at infinite cost to themselves these Maginot Lines against this enemy they thought they saw across the frontier, this enemy who never attacked that way-if he ever attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy.”