Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Most of John Knowles’s protagonists, with the exception of Axie Reed, are young men. What role do women play in his fiction, and how may they be categorized?

In what ways do societal rules and expectations affect Knowles’s characters?

How does Knowles use symbolic landscapes in his work?

What role does the “generation gap” play in Knowles’s fiction?

Knowles uses a variety of points of view in his work. Sometimes, as in A Vein of Riches, readers get the perspective of only certain characters. Which characters does he choose to use in this way, and why are they chosen?

In A Separate Peace, Knowles uses “Phineas” as the name of a character, thereby giving the book a mythic quality. How does Knowles use names to suggest character traits or symbolic meanings?