What is the tone of A Separate Peace?
Throughout the novel A Separate Peace, Knowles applies a pessimistic, confessional tone to his novel. As Gene narrates the story of his childhood relationship with Finny and Finny's subsequent death due to complications related to Gene's malevolent actions, Knowles utilizes a pessimistic tone. Gene's story is one of human depravity and loss of innocence, two dark subjects discussed throughout the novel. Gene is essentially driven by jealousy and insecurity to harm his best friend. Joining America's forces in World War II is also discussed, and Leper's traumatic experiences as a soldier add to the ominous, pessimistic tone of the novel. Knowles also utilizes a confessional tone as Gene narrates his 'personal war' with Finny. Gene confesses how he indirectly played a part in his best friend's death. Gene reveals his negative feelings toward Finny and admits to making Finny fall from a tree. Overall, the story is a dark tale of war, loss of childhood innocence, and humanity's inherent wickedness.
A Separate Peace has a dark tone throughout the novel because of the back and forth feelings that Gene has about Finny. It's a good vs. evil theme which transpires through the carefree innocence that occurs in the summer time and their feelings of freedom--and then takes the reader through the loss of innocence when not only does Finny get hurt, he eventually dies because of surgery complications.
The tone almost gives off a sense of foreboding (fear of what's to come). The reader feels for Gene, and is struggling right along with him and his jealousy in the beginning and his guilt throughout the rest of the story. This is not a happy, light story. It's intense.