A Separate Peace by John Knowles

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What is the significance of the title A Separate Peace by John Knowles?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title A Separate Peace is taken from Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms:

I was glad to be alone. I had the paper ... about the war. I was going to forget the war. I had made a separate peace. (Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms)

Knowles' title has many symbolic inferences. The most important perhaps is signified by Gene's narratorial comment as he reflects back on that time when he and the other boys were sixteen and away at school alone together.

I think we reminded [the elderly substitute teachers] of what peace was like, we boys of sixteen. We registered with no draft board, we had taken no physical examinations. We were carefree and wild, ... a sign of the life the war was being fought to preserve.

This remark both signifies and foreshadows that personal peace parallels war's peace but, unlike war's peace, which is collective, personal peace is separate; it's private; it is exclusively one's own. Some ways a separate peace was achieved in the characters lives related to youth; to guilt; to the war; to life and death; to growing up; and to peace of mind.

  • Peace is achieved between Finny and Gene after Finny's hospitalization.
  • Gene attains peace form guilt.
  • Finny attains peace when he accepts his physical disability caused by the accident that prevents him from enlisting.
  • Finny attains peace when he accepts Gene's part in his accident as an inner impulse, not an inner intent based on a secret hatred: "It was just some kind of blind impulse you had ... it wasn't some kind of hate you've felt all along."
  • Finny and Gene attain peace between themselves.
  • Finny attains ultimate peace when he dies, with his heart at peace with Gene.
  • Gene attains peace within himself as he comes of age and enlists.
  • Personal peace attained contrasts with the peace from war only hoped for though not yet not realized.
  • (The entire section contains 3 answers and 637 words.)

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stoy011 | Student

The title can mean that Finny has created a world of his own which creates a peace for Gene that he understood and enjoyed because he then felt that there was no pain in the world, caused by World War II. Gene's separate peace was Finny's own world where war was a giant conspiracy...

Hope it helped!! :)

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