A Separate Peace by John Knowles

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In A Separate Peace, what does Gene have taped above his bed?

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In Chapter 11 of A Separate PeaceGene has taped pictures which create the illusion of his having come from the gentry of the South: plantation mansions, old trees with Spanish moss hanging from them, and "lazy roads" that wind past cabins.

Gene is from "three states from Texas," and unaccustomed to the New England culture. Lest people think he is backward and without refinement, he hangs up the pictures that represent the genteel South, the show of aristocracy in the mansions and scenic grounds. It is a false identity that Gene creates with these pictures and he even speaks with an assumed accent that is from a different state than his own.

Throughout the narrative is becomes apparent that Gene has striven to compete with Phineas and to attain a certain superiority among the other boys. "As a last defense, I had always taken refuge in a scornful superiority, based on nothing," Gene remarks in Chapter 10. These pictures, then, are symbolic of this basis of "nothing." 

 

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