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A Separate Peace: 08/10/21
A Separate Peace by John Knowles is a book I've read twice for school: once in eighth grade and again in tenth. It's one that has stuck with me — though not as perfectly as I thought. Last year when I read The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (2019) I was reminded of the novel again and decided it was time for a read as an adult.
Now that I've read it in my forties, I can see why it was taught in school. The imagery is blatant and repetitive. The foreshadowing is practically shouted. There are plenty of examples throughout the novel for students learning how to write literary analysis.
Told as an extended flashback by an adult returning to his old boarding school, it's about the friendship between Gene and Phineas. Gene is an introvert and academic. Phineas is a charismatic and athletic rule breaker. At first glance, Gene is to Elwood as Phineas is to Turner, except that Whitehead takes the narrative formula of Knowles books and turns it on its head.
Gene's account of his brief friendship with Phineas is set during their senior year. In the background is WWII and all the boys know they will be drafted upon graduation if they don't enlist. The middle part of the book even goes into the disastrous effect the war has on a student who enlists early and ends up AWOL.
Mostly though the book is about privileged boys living one last privileged year. Gene, in particular, though, learns this first hand. His journey of character growth, as an adult, can be mapped on the road narrative spectrum.
Gene remains a privileged traveler (00) even as adult. His journey back to school and through his memories of that last year is a trip to uhoria (CC). His route is the cornfield (FF) as represented by the tree at the river that features so heavily in the novel. Thus Gene's journey is that of a privileged traveler through uhoria via the cornfield (00CCFF).