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A Separate Peace

by John Knowles
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How does Knowles make the ending of the novel so striking and memorable?

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John Knowles's novel A Separate Peace ends after Gene and his cohort have left Devon. The boys entered the war effort in one way or another, with Gene entering the Navy as he planned.

The penultimate chapter sets the stage for Gene's reflections on his military career. A chain...

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John Knowles's novel A Separate Peace ends after Gene and his cohort have left Devon. The boys entered the war effort in one way or another, with Gene entering the Navy as he planned.

The penultimate chapter sets the stage for Gene's reflections on his military career. A chain of events is set in motion when Finny learns that Gene actually caused his accident. When they finally speak again, Finny is able to forgive Gene. They speak with true open honesty for the first time, as Gene tells his friend how he admires his open, friendly manner, and Finny understands that even someone as upright and honorable as Gene can be momentarily possessed by jealousy.

The next day, Finny dies in surgery. Gene must reevaluate their relationship in order to move forward. Finny's spontaneity and non-judgmental attitude now seem valuable traits to emulate and, over time, to internalize.

In the next and final chapter, we see Gene years later, after having served in the war. Thinking of his friend's ability to take what comes his way had served Gene well in the war. He had moved beyond the fear of failure into the clearheaded acknowledgment of his own fallibility. Gene has come to regard this perspective as an enduring legacy of the friend he failed so badly.

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