A Separate Peace

The Before and the After: Finding Identity in the Midst of War 10th Grade

Everyone, at some point, has an experience that so profoundly alters his or her life that it seems to define time itself. For many Americans, the tragic terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001 fractured life into two pieces: before and after. World War II similarly affected the people of the era, especially teenage boys, for whom the world of childhood was distinct from the world of adulthood–the world of war. The characters in John Knowles's novel A Separate Peace struggle to find their own identities during the transition to adulthood in the midst of the looming threat of World War II and their own personal wars. Each boy at the Devon School reacts differently in response to growing up. The complicated relationships between Leper, Finny, and Gene, as well as the plot and setting of the novel explore this identity crisis during a period of history when adolescent boys defined themselves in terms of the war, because the transition from child to adult was clearly defined by the military draft.

Although he is unwilling to jump from the tree after Finny and Gene or volunteer to shovel snow, Leper is the first boy to respond to the draft and take the proverbial leap. His reaction to the war surprises everyone....

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