Thoughtfully explain the title of the novel (A Separate Peace)A Separate Peace by John Knowles

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 10 of A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Leper describes to Gene his negative experiences in the army.  He tells Gene that he may be "psycho" because "they turned everything inside out."  As he continues, Gene selfishly shouts for him to stop talking because he does not care:

"This has nothing to do with me!  Nothing at all!  I don't care!"

And, Gene runs from Leper, whose name symbolically reinforces Gene's desire to run.  But, Leper's description of what has transpired with him causes fear and disturbance in Gene because, as he has remarked in Chapter 9, he has created a peace within himself that finds no reflection with the world confusion, just as Finny, who dismisses the World War as a "conspiracy" creates a winter carnival as a "liberation...torn from the gray encroachments of 1943." The winter carnival, Gene narrates, is Finny's "choreography of peace."

However, as the war progresses and Gene nears graduation, he realizes that he can no longer take refuge in what Gene terms "a scornful superiority" such as he exhibits to Leper, for "it is based on nothing."  His "momentary, illusory, special and separate peace" that the winter carnival has provided is destroyed by the savage nature of man, the "something ignorant in the human heart" that has both driven him to jounce the limb on which Finny stands and that drives men to create wars.  In truth, there is no separate peace.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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