A Separate Peace
is a 1959 novel by John Knowles, a coming-of-age story symbolizing Cold-War paranoia during World War II
. The events take place from Summer, 1942 to Summer, 1943.
Gene Forrester, a student at a boarding school, sabotages his successful best friend, Phineas, out of perceived jealousy. When Gene realizes that Phineas was not trying to sabotage him, Gene finds out too late that Phineas was a true friend, and Phineas becomes crippled in an accident by Gene. The rest of the story details Gene's and Phineas's friendship and Gene's attempts to reconcile with what had happened.
Surprisingly required reading in a lot of schools, despite the Homoerotic Subtext
Provides examples of:
- Added Alliterative Appeal: At the beginning, Gene and Phineas create the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session.
- Ambiguous Innocence: Finny, by way of Alternate Character Interpretation. He's consistently depicted as friendly and kind, and at the end of the book, Gene concludes that Finny was free of the paranoid outlook borne by everyone else in the story. However, Gene is an Unreliable Narrator, and Finny is revealed as a Stepford Smiler near the story's end, suggesting that some of his innocent behavior may be a facade.
- An Aesop
- Boarding School: Devon
- Break the Cutie: Leper.
- Bury Your Gays - Finny
- Calvinball: Blitzball is kinda like this. There are rules, but they seem to be made up at random as they go.
- Career-Ending Injury: happens to Finny, and gets the plot going.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Leper
- Chekhov's Gun: The stairs.
- Deadpan Snarker: Gene has quite a few good moments.
- Death by Irony
- Death by Newbery Medal
- Downer Ending
- Foreshadowing: Gene's description of Devon.
- Gay Bravado: Finny wears a pink shirt without caring if he looks like "a fairy."
- Green Eyes: Finny's, as pointed out repeatedly by Gene.
- Homoerotic Subtext: So blatant that the book has been banned from some libraries, but still just subtle enough for Plausible Deniability.
- Memetic Badass: Leper, an in universe example. When he goes off to join the army, the students joke about how he has been at every major battle in the war.
- While the other boys may see him as this, it's a actually a big subversion. While they're joking about him winning the war, he's at boot camp, longing for his collection of snails and the beaver dam, trying to retain his individuality and not go crazy. He fails.
- Mind Screw: Lots and lots of it.
- No Communities Were Harmed: Devon is a thinly veiled version of the high school John Knowles attended, Phillips Exeter Academy.
- Precision F-Strike: At the 'trial'. The film version applies Gosh Dang It to Heck! here.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Finny wears a pink shirt and ignores any comments about it.
- Refuge in Audacity/Sarcastic Confession: When accused of injuring his friend on purpose, the main character jumps into a series of increasingly ludicrous things he obviously didn't really do to him, such as sleeping with his sister, which culminates in knocking him out of the tree.
- Stepford Smiler: Finny
- Tragic Bromance: Played with. Finny and Gene's relationship bears most hallmarks of this trope—they're very close and Gene is profoundly affected by Finny's death, even fifteen years later—but it's subverted in that Gene doesn't truly consider Finny his best friend due to his deep-seated jealousy and paranoia, feelings which cause the accident that eventually leads to Finny's death.
- Unknown Rival: Played for Drama. Gene secretly views Finny as his rival and assumes Finny feels the same; this leads him to cause Finny's accident. At the end of the book, Gene reflects that everyone acts this way, constructing lines of defense against an imagined enemy; only Finny (according to Gene) didn't behave this way.
- Unreliable Narrator
- World War II