In A Separate Peace, what are five examples of how weather conditions create a mood?

Mood is the tone of a passage. The way writers manipulate words and descriptions can create a mood. In A Separate Peace, Knowles uses his chosen diction to manipulate the weather descriptions he includes in his story. This creates a conflicted, uncertain mood in the reader that mirrors Gene's own internal conflict.

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Mood references the feelings, the emotions, that a text evokes in readers. We use adjectives such as cheerful, chaotic, and pessimistic to describe the feel of the passage. Weather often affects not only the characters' but also the readers' emotions. Weather can impact the mood of a story.

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Mood references the feelings, the emotions, that a text evokes in readers. We use adjectives such as cheerful, chaotic, and pessimistic to describe the feel of the passage. Weather often affects not only the characters' but also the readers' emotions. Weather can impact the mood of a story.

In A Separate Peace, Knowles incorporates weather descriptions into his plot from the first few pages. In chapter one, the weather is rainy, foggy, and windy. This creates a chaotic, uncertain mood. For example, Knowles writes:

There were several trees bleakly reaching into the fog (ch. 1).

This fog impairs Gene's vision. Just like the fog blocks Gene's sight, it reminds readers that they don't know what is going to happen next. Yet, the cold and damp weather leaves us suspecting that whatever is coming may not be very cheerful.

Later, in chapter 7, snow falls.

. . . snow came. It came theatrically, late one afternoon; I looked up from my desk and saw that suddenly there were big flakes twirling down into the quadrangle, settling on the carefully pruned shrubbery bordering the crosswalks . . .

At first, this description seems light and playful. Words such as "twirling" and "pruned shrubbery" craft a peaceful and orderly mood.

But Knowles immediately adds description that collides with this peacefulness:

They gathered there thicker by the minute, like noiseless invaders conquering because they took possession so gently. I watched them whirl past my window (ch. 7).

Diction choices such as "noiseless invaders" and "took possession" crush the peace and leave readers confused about how they should feel. The following line lightens the mood, once more:

. . . don't take this seriously, the playful way they fell seemed to imply, this little show, this harmless trick (ch. 7).

This back and forth between descriptions of peace and war ultimately create a conflicted, uncertain mood in the reader. This is very similar to the internal conflict that Gene faces throughout the story.

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In A Separate Peace, John Knowles uses a significant number of weather references to help set the mood.

Some examples include:

Chapter 1:  When Gene returns to Devon the weather is dark and bleak.

"It was such a gray and misty day that I could not see the other side of the river, where there was a small stadium."

"With nothing to block it the wind flung wet gusts at me; at any other time I would have felt like a fool slogging through mud and rain, only to look at a tree.  A little fog hung over the river so that as I neared it I felt myself becoming isolated...The wind was blowing more steadily here, and I was beginning to feel cold."

Chapter 3:  On a beautiful day, Gene and Finny go to the beach in the late afternoon.

"This kind of sunshine and ocean, with the accumulating roar of he surf and the salty, adventurous, flirting wind from the sea, always intoxicated Phineas."

Chapter 4:  Right before the disagreement between Gene and Finny about studying for the French exam and ultimately, Finny's fall from the tree, the mood is one of renewal, as described by the return of spring.

"August arrived with a deepening of all the summertime splendors of New Hampshire.  Early in the month we had two days of light, steady rain which aroused a final fullness everywhere."

"There was a latent freshness in the air, as though spring were returning in the middle of summer."

Chapter 6:  This introduces the Winter Session at Devon.

"Fall had barely touched the full splendor of the trees, and during the height of the day the sun briefly regained its summertime power.  In the air there was only an edge of coolness to imply the coming winter."

Chapter 7:  This is the snowfall that has the Devon students shoveling the railroads and Leper "touring" in the snow.

"The following weekend, however, it snowed again, then two days later much harder, and by the end of that week the ground had been clamped under snow for the winter."

Whether it is freezing weather or afternoon sunshine, John Knowles effectively uses various weather descriptors to help the reader understand the ever-changing mood of A Separate Peace.

 

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