A Separate Peace by John Knowles

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How does war impact the lives of Gene, Finny, Leper, and other characters throughout A Separate Peace?  

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A central motif in the novel is fear, never expressed but deeply felt by the boys at Devon beginning in the summer of 1942. As Gene's flashback begins, the Summer Session is underway, as is World War II. Although the war seems far removed from them, it is never far from their thoughts. Jumping from the tree becomes jumping from a sinking troop ship; splashing in the river provides practice for beating the burning oil away as it flames atop the water. Their own war games. Gene notes that the teachers "loosened their grip" on the boys that summer, knowing what lay ahead of them after graduation.

As the school year progressed, the pressure and anxiety of the war that awaited them increased. Each of the four main characters responded to the anxiety in different ways. Leper decided to get a jump on fate. After watching a recruiting film of Nordic ski troops, he enlists before his eighteenth birthday, before he can be drafted. Leper thought he had found a "friendly face" of war, the kind of...

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