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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The novel A Separate Peace is set against the background of the Second World War. The book depicts a peaceful New England's boy's school by the name of Devon. There is a pastoral quality about the school, for it is surrounded by enormous playing fields, is filled with sunshine, and has a peaceful river flowing through campus. During World War II, the novelist John Knowles attended Phillips Exeter Academy on which Devon was based.
The protagonist and narrator of the novel who tells of his experiences at Devon when he was sixteen and seventeen years old. He is portrayed as a person who normally conformed to the rules and regulations of the school and society in general; however, when he is with his roommate, Finny, he behaves very differently. In Finny's presence, Gene always wants to act like him and be a free man, unaffected by the dictates of others; but he never really succeeds. As a result, he becomes insanely jealous of Finny, and his jealousy turn into brutality. To humiliate Finny and bring him down to his level, he bounces his friend out of the tree, causing his leg to break. Because of the accident Finny becomes a cripple, which causes Gene much guilt and shame.
The roommate and close friend of Gene, the narrator. He is admired by both his teachers and his classmates. He is considered the best athlete in school, moving with perfect physical grace, harmony, and coordination. He is also known as the boy who never makes a mistake, even though he is always spontaneously saying and doing the unexpected. Never desiring consistency, Finny enjoys things that are new and different. Gene idolizes him.
Edwin Lepellier (Leper)
Another student at Devon. Portrayed as a contrast to Gene and Finny, he is always immersed in the natural world, sketching birds and looking for beaver dams. He becomes the first person from Devon to enlist in the armed service and fight in the war. When he has to face the life of conformity and regulations demanded by the army, he becomes a psychotic individual.
One of the students at Devon who is considered a leader of his class. He instigates the trial against Gene, for he suspects that something is strange about Finny's accident.
Mr. Prud'homme, Mr. Patch-Withers, and Mr. Ludsbury
Teachers at Devon.
The doctor who treats Finny's leg.
Chet Douglass, Bobby Zane and Quackenbush
Other students at Devon.