A Separate Peace
John Knowles
Chapter 1 and 2
In chapter one, Gene realizes he
has “escaped” something since he
has left Devon. What is it?
Chapter 1 and 2
In paragraph 9 of chapter 2, Gene
explains why the school atmosphere
is more relaxed for the sixteen-year
olds than it is for the seniors. What
reasons does he see for the
Chapter 1 and 2
What connection did Finny make
between jumping from the tree and
the war?
Chapter 1 and 2
What is the Super Suicide Society
of the Summer Session? What is
significant about its title?
Chapters 3 and 4
In chapter 3 there is a break after which the
narrator talks about a moment in history that
for him represents reality.
What is this time? Who are its leaders? What
are some of the characteristics of the situation?
What is unique about this passage?
Chapters 3 and 4
“To keep silent about this amazing happening
deepened the shock for me. It made Finny
seem too unusual for– not friendship, but too
unusual for rivalry. And there were few
relationships among us at Devon not based on
rivalry.“ -Ch. 3, p. 45
Chapters 3 and 4
“ I should have told him then that he was my
best friend also and rounded off what he had
said. I started to; I nearly did. But something
held me back. Perhaps I was stopped by that
level of feeling, deeper than thought, which
contains the truth.” Ch. 3, p. 48
Chapters 3 and 4
“The beach shed its deadness and became
spectral gray-white, then more white than gray,
and finally it was totally white and stainless, as
pure as the shores of Eden. Phineas, still
asleep… made me think of Lazarus, brought
back to life by the touch of God.” Ch. 4, p.50
Chapters 3 and 4
“The thought was, You and Phineas are even
already. You are even in enmity. You are both
coldly driving ahead for yourselves alone. You
did hate him for breaking that school
swimming record, but so what? He hated you
for getting an A in every course but one last
term. You would have had an A in that one
except for him. Except for him.” Ch. 4, p.53
Chapters 3 and 4
“It wasn’t my neck but my understanding
which was menaced. [Finny] had never been
jealous of me for a second. Now I knew that
there was never was and never could be any
rivalry between us. I was not the same quality
as he.” Ch. 4 p. 59
Chapter 5
What are some examples of allusions
so far in A Separate Peace. Explain
your answer.
Chapter 5
What are some examples from the
text of foreshadowing. What
indications did the text give that
hinted at Finny’s fall?
Chapter 6
Back at Devon, Gene must attend the
opening chapel service. There he makes
the following observation: “If you broke
the rules, then they broke you. That, I
think, was the real point of the sermon on
the first morning.”
Chapter 6
What statements in chapter 6 show
that Gene’s identity is now blurring
into an association with Finny’s
identity? Why does Gene feel and act
like Finny? What are the emotions
behind this behavior?
Chapter 6
After applying for crew manager, he adds,
“Jobs like mine were usually taken by boys
with some physical disability, since everyone
had to take part in sports and this was all
disabled boys could do. As I walked toward
the door I supposed that Quakenbush was
studying me to see if he could detect a limp.
But I knew that his flat black eyes would never
detect my trouble.”
Chapter 6
When Quakenbush taunts him with being
maimed, Gene hits him and then explains,
“I didn’t know why for an instant; it was
almost as though I were maimed. Then
the realization that there was someone
who was flashed over me.”
Chapter 6
Toward the end of chapter 6, Gene sums
up his feelings about athletic
participation: “I wanted no more of
sports. They were barred from me, as
though when Dr. Stanpoole said, ‘Sports
are finished!’ he had been speaking of
Chapter 6
Gene says, “I lost part of myself to
him then, and a soaring sense of
freedom revealed that this must have
been my purpose from the first: to
become a part of Phineas.”
Chapter 6
What are some symbols that have
appeared in chapter 6 that reflect the
change (or loss of innocence) that
occurred between the Summer and
Winter sessions? What else do they
represent? Give examples.
Chapter 6
“To enlist. To slam the door impulsively on the past,
to shed everything down to my last bit of clothing, to
break the pattern of life- that complex design I had
been weaving since birth with all its dark threads, its
unexplainable symbols set against a conventional
background of domestic white and schoolboy blue, all
those tangled strands which required the dexterity of
a virtuoso to keep flowing- I yearned to take giant
military shears to it, snap! Bitten off in an instant, and
nothing left in my hands but spools of khaki which
could weave only a plain, flat khaki design, however
twisted they might be.”
What is Gene talking about here? Explain…
Chapter 7-8
1) Early in chapter 7, Brinker accuses Gene of
deliberately getting rid of Finny so he could
have the room all to himself. He says that
Gene committed “fratricide.” What do you
think this word means?
2) How did Gene react to this statement?
Chapter 7-8
Gene admits that war will be deadly, but adds,
“There was always something deadly lurking
in anything I wanted, anything I loved. And if
it wasn’t there, as for example with Phineas,
then I put it there myself.”
3) What is Gene saying here? Why is this
significant to understanding his personality
and his guilt?
Chapter 7-8
4) In what ways is Phineas the same person he
was during the summer? In what ways has he
changed? Give examples.
5) How would you characterize Gene and
Finny’s relationship since Finny’s fall? Are
they more or less dependent on one another?
Are they better or lesser friends? Explain.
Chapters 9-10
“…for on this day even the schoolboy egotism
of Devon was conjured away…it wasn’t the
cider which made me surpass myself, it was
the liberation we had torn from the grey
encroachments of 1943, the escape we had
concocted, this afternoon of momentary,
illusory, special and separate peace.”
1) Examine the imagery and word choice in
this passage. What is the tone? Give examples.
2) How does this quotation help explain the
title of the book? What do you think it means?
Chapters 9-10
“You always were a savage underneath. I
always knew that only I never admitted it. But
in the last few weeks…I admitted a hell of a
lot to myself…It’s you we happen to be talking
about now. Like a savage underneath…like
that time you knocked Finny out of the
tree…Like the time you crippled him for life.”
3) What is the meaning and significance of this
passage? Who is “you”? Who is “I”? What is it
saying? Explain.
Chapters 9-10
As Finny returns to Devon, Gene states,
“peace had come back to Devon for me.”
4) Discuss Finny as a symbol of peace. Does
he represent peace just for Gene or is there a
wider interpretation? Explain and give
examples from the book.
5) The opposite of peace is, of course, war.
How does the author play these two forces
against each other? Can either force be
successfully denied or embraced? Why?
(Think outside the box for this one… you can
do it!!  )