A Separate Peace - Lesson Plans and Activities

John Knowles

  • A Separate Peace eNotes Essential Lessons

    Each of the following lessons is geared to a specific skill category and Common Core standard. It includes a step-by-step guide to teaching the lesson as well as handouts, assessments, modification, and enrichment activities. The lessons follow the chronology of the story A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Table of Contents Lesson 1: Setting the stage Lesson 2: A moment in history Lesson 3: Action is character Lesson 4: Memories of the heart Lesson 5: Creating variety in sentence structure Lesson 6: Looking through a different window Lesson 7: A complicated friendship Lesson 8: Inference and interpretation Lesson 9: Opposing forces Lesson 10: Parallelism in plot development Lesson 11: Punctuating dialog in narrative writing Lesson 12: Creating atmosphere in descriptive writing Lesson 13: “One picture is worth a thousand words!” Lesson 14: Seasons change Lesson 15: A casualty of war Lesson 16: Reading between the lines Lesson 17: Finny’s last words Lesson 18: “All the lonely people” Lesson 19: Loss of innocence Lesson 20: The enemy within

  • A Separate Peace eNotes Response Journal

    When the novel begins, the narrator says he went back to visit Devon School fifteen years after he had been a student there. Is there a time or a place in your past that you would like to go back and visit? Describe it, and discuss why it is still important to you. The narrator says he returned to Devon on a “wet, self-pitying November day when every speck of dirt stands out clearly.” He says the wind “blew wet, moody gusts” all around him. How does the tone of the narrator’s description strike you? What does it suggest to you about his frame of mind and about his going back to see his former school, especially since he is alone?

  • A Separate Peace eNotes Lesson Plan

    Like the classic architecture of the Devon School, the setting of A Separate Peace, this narrative is time- less, at once completely of its moment and still resonant with young readers today. First published in England in 1959 and in the United States a year later, A Separate Peace went on to win the Rosenthal Award of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, as well as the William Faulkner Foundation Award. Like J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace continues to captivate new generations. Through exquisite language, it captures and chronicles the fear, confusion, isolation, and loneliness of growing up in a hostile world. Set against the backdrop of World War II, a time when America was bound up by duty and sacrifice, A Separate Peace tells the story of two friends—Gene, the insecure intel- lectual, and Phineas (Finny), Devon’s magnetic star; a single moment in the summer of 1942 and its emotional aftermath drive the narrative. More broadly, A Separate Peace speaks eloquently to the univer- sal themes of guilt, fear, and the loss of innocence. Author John Knowles wrote from his own experience in penning A Separate Peace, which first appeared in short-story form as “Phineas.” As a boy, Knowles attended the prestigious Exeter Academy (now Phillips Exeter) during the time period of the story. The rarified prep school environs of Exeter, Knowles’ friends and classmates, and some of the author’s specific school experiences are reflected in the novel, contributing to its verisimilitude. Knowles’ detailed images of Devon, flanked by “those most Repub- lican, bankerish of trees, New England elms,” often mirror the buildings and grounds of the Exeter campus he knew. While Knowles’s personal history undoubtedly gave him a wellspring of events, details, and characters from which to draw, it is the complexity and the artistry of the novel that have made it an enduring clas- sic in modern American literature. The language soars, at once dramatic and evocative, and the plot is developed in elegant increments as the gathering forces of world war rush toward the boys of Devon. Fear and dread permeate the novel, but Knowles allows his characters, and his readers, to experience brief and beautiful moments of separate peace as Gene and Finny struggle to maintain their individual illusions in the face of cruel, relentless reality. They fail. A Separate Peace most essentially is a story of innocence lost. These boys, their unique characters developed by Knowles with depth and insight, linger with the reader. As the novel’s first-person narrator, Gene Forrester takes a retrospective view, remembering the events at Devon fifteen years earlier that nearly destroyed him but led to a profound understanding of himself and the human heart. Gene’s suffering is memorable, as is Finny’s. A gifted, graceful athlete with an impish personality and an exuberant spirit, Phineas remains an unforgettable literary portrait of joyful ir- responsibility, of freedom only enjoyed by the young. When Finny’s spirit, like his body, is shattered, the novel becomes a tragedy. Brinker Hadley, a puffed-up school politician who parrots his father’s words, and Leper Lepellier, a sensitive social misfit at home only in the natural world, leave lasting impressions, as well, as their individual stories are woven deftly into the narrative. Like the ocean wave observed during Gene and Finny’s forbidden trip to the beach, a wave that “hesitated, balanced there, and then hissed back toward the deep water,” readers of A Separate Peace are momentarily suspended in time and then pulled into the deep where the complexities of the human condition await.