A Separate Peace

A Separate Peace

An American classic and great bestseller for over thirty years, A Separate Peace is timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to World War II.

Set at a boys' boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.
  • Scribner | 
  • 208 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743253970 | 
  • September 2003
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for A Separate Peace includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Set at a boys’ boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace follows the friendship of the serious, intellectual Gene and the athletic, charismatic Phineas and the tragic turn their relationship takes when a moment’s impulse has terrible consequences. A Separate Peace is timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence; it is an American classic, published more than fifty years ago and a bestseller for decades, striking in its depiction of coming-of-age and the struggle to understand human nature.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Gene says, “I was subject to the dictates of my mind, which gave me the maneuverability of a strait jacket” (page 34). Where do Gene’s rules for himself come from? Why are they so strict?

2. Why does Phineas choose the pink shirt for a school flag, his emblem? And why does Gene so envy his ability to “get away” with this (page 25)?

3. Gene thinks Finny see more

About the Author

John Knowles

John Knowles, who died in 2001, was a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University, as well as a recipient of the William Faulkner Award and the Rosenthal Award of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

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