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A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

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1. What is the "separate peace" that Gene feels he has achieved? How has it affected the rest of his life?

2. Find several examples of the way in which Knowles uses the natural world (e.g., the tree, the rivers) to introduce and express the novel's important themes. Do you think these images work well as symbolism? Why?

3. What is the place of sports in the life of the boys at Devon? How does Knowles use sports to help portray his characters?

4. What kind of picture of American society does Knowles develop in his portrait of the United States in the early days of World War II? How might his writing the book in the 1950s affect his description of the 1940s?

5. Gene is described with considerable psychological insight, but Phineas is presented primarily from Gene's perspective. How does Phineas see himself? How might Phineas's self-image differ from Gene's image of him?

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