1. Viewing A Separate Peace through the critical lens of Historical Criticism, the reader analyzes the narrative against the backdrop of World War II, the setting of Knowles's novel. In Chapter 10, Gene has returned from seeing Leper, who has gone AWOL, but his visit proves as revealing of himself as of Leper.
CHAPTER 11 - Historical Criticism
Now, in Chapter 11, Gene seeks Finny and finds him on a snow-filled battlefield where the boys are throwing snowballs and Gene is conscripted by Finny who shouts, "You're on our side, even if you do have a lousy aim." Much vocabulary that is suggestive of war is used.
- Word Style
In describing this snowball fight, Gene uses the vocabulary of war:
The fight veered, Finny recruited me and others as allies,...Suddenly he turned his fire against me....
When Brinker asks where Leper is, Gene replies, "Why he's--he's on leave." Then Gene blurts out, "...He's Absent Without Leave."
Brinker's sense of generalship disappeared....When he surrendered....he remarked, "Well I guess that takes care of the Hitler Youth Outing for one day."
Later, Brinker comes for Gene and takes him to the Assembly Hall for an "inquiry" that "the country demands." Once there, Brinker tells Gene, "Tonight we're investigating you....Investigating Finny's accident!" Brinker voice conveys authority and is perfectly under control.
As he interrogates Gene, Brinker uses phrases such as "just for the record" and refers to Finny as "one soldier our side has already lost."
2. Using the critical lens of New Criticism, Chapter 12 will be examined in terms of the words' meanings, and the significance of any symbols, and figures of speech.
CHAPTER 12 - New Criticism
- Characterization and Inner Conflict
After Finny has broken his leg a second time, Dr. Stanpole must operate on Finny. Gene suffers psychologically, having hallucinations--"double vision" Gene calls it. This has occurred after he has gone to the hospital to apologize to Finny. "I was trying to cope with something that might be called 'double vision.'" Gene walks over to the Devon gym, where he goes nearly every day. But, because of his emotional state after Finny asks him if he has come to break something else, Gene's guilt makes him think that the trees have "a message that was very pressing and entirely indecipherable." As Gene continues to walk around campus, he feels that he is "alone in a dream, a figment which had really touched anything." And yet he feels that there is a "deeply meaningful world" around him.
Form the previous chapters and from the narrative of Chapter 12, Gene's words are significant; he is tortured with his guilt for having been the cause of Finny's original accident. Finally, Gene is confronted with his responsibility for what has happened to Finny. This impact of his responsibility overwhelms him and Gene begins to hallucinate.
The words used in Chapter 12 create the interactions of Gene's feelings that push him to feel as though he is in a dream, but in truth, he finally confronts his guilt. Then, when Finny asks him to agree that he was just seized by something. Gene then admits, "...it was just some ignorance inside me, some crazy thing...."
In the next and final chapter Gene extrapolates what he says about himself to man in general. "...wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart." Indeed, Gene's words are central to the theme of A Separate Peace.