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A Separate Peace

by John Knowles
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For A Separate Peace, explain how Knowles, the writer, uses language to convey meaning and to create effect in this paragraph:   "So I began running again. Leper Lepellier was loping along outside my perimeter, not noticing the game, tagging along without reason, like a porpoise escorting a passing ship. “Leper!” I threw the ball past a few heads at him. Taken by surprise, Leper looked up in anguish, shrank away from the ball, and voiced his first thought, a typical one. “I don't want it!”

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This paragraph occurs in chapter three. It is early in the novel, while Gene is in summer school. Finny has organized a game with a heavy ball which he calls blitzball: as in a war zone, every other participant is an enemy.

Gene and some of the others are enmeshed...

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This paragraph occurs in chapter three. It is early in the novel, while Gene is in summer school. Finny has organized a game with a heavy ball which he calls blitzball: as in a war zone, every other participant is an enemy.

Gene and some of the others are enmeshed in the game when Gene notices Leper nearby. Knowles uses alliteration, as well as consonace with the "l" sound in "along," to call attention to Leper's presence: the repeated 'l' mimics the sluggish rhythm of Leper's pace: "Leper Lepellier ... loping along." Additionally, the alliterative "p" sounds in "perimeter, "porpoise," and "passing" all fall on words emphasizing Leper's outsider status. Leper, on the margins and like a porpoise, lacks the grace of the boys involved in the middle of the game.

Knowles turns to dialogue to show Gene trying to reach out to the less-accepted boy from his inner-circle position. He wants to pull him into the game and the group. But Leper's response shows he doesn't want to be an insider. The strong words "anguish" and "shrank" used as Leper avoids the warrior ball show his distress at this kind of play. We learn from Gene that Leper's first thought is a typical one for him: “I don’t want it!”

All of this characterizes Leper as an outsider who goes his own way and doesn't necessarily want to conform to the group. This foreshadows the problems he will have conforming to the expectations of the army after he enlists.

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