The book I chose to read is called, A Separate Peace by John Knowles. The book was published in 1959 and has 192 pages. However, the story itself goes from page 9 to page 176.
When we first starting choosing books, I was recommended a book called, The Wars. When I went to the Library to get a copy, Ms. Woelfl recommended A Separate Peace over the first novel due to the fact that A Separate Peace had more secondary sources. So I took both books home and read a bit of each. Unfortunately, for me, one book did not stand out over the other one, but based on the fact of how easy it was to find secondary sources, I chose A Separate Peace.
It’s hard to get a good grasp on the novel because I am only five pages in so far. However from what I read, I do like this book. The author, John Knowles, is able to paint a mental picture using descriptive words, as well as give me a feel for the time the book takes place. The author, in the first few pages, stresses the changes in one’s life (in this case, the main character) after finishing school; as the main character reflects on his, almost haunting, past.
I have only read 5 pages, but as I go along, after every page, I write down a couple of points to summarize what I have just read. I believe in doing this, it will give me an advantage in later assignments in the Independent Study Project. Since the book is a shorter book, it will also help me pin point certain important events that occur throughout the novel.
The book is written in first person and starts off with the main character taking a trip through time. The main character returns to his old school (Devon School) and reflects on the time when he had attended the school, 15 years before. It starts off in the fall season, in New England, New Hampshire. The main character mentions a few times about the fear back then. He mentions how Devon is a very athletic and scholarly school. However he is not just visiting the school, but also a place called the Cage. He takes us to a place just outside the school yard. It’s a woodsy area, with a river behind the trees. There is only a couple trees along the bank of the river, and he is looking for one I particular, which he finds. He can tell this tree apart due to the markings on the trunk, as well as a branch that extends above the river. It is a cold, wet day out as the main character reflects. He also mentions a childhood friend briefly; his name is Phineas and describes him of having no fear.
Being only five pages in, it is hard to really identify a true theme. However I was able to pick out a few different ideas on different themes that might occur throughout the story. You get the feeling (as the character reflects), that there was an uncertainty in the past; whereas now, everything seems much more clear. Almost like there were things in the past ‘haunting’ the character. As well, the character mentions that there was a high degree of fear in the past. This could do with the fact that when this character attended Devon, World War II was in full swing. As well, there is a sense of transformation as one goes from being a teen to becoming a man. I believe the author is trying to show how hard it can be to ‘fit’ in. As well as show the fear and transformations in a person as they make some of the biggest decisions in their life (like whether or not to join the fight in WWII).
I have yet to begin looking for secondary sources on my novel, but I have been told that there is two bloom books on this novel in our library. When the next week begins, I plan on grabbing both bloom books on this novel, to use on my independent study.
“I was thankful, very thankful that I had seen it. So the more things remain the same, the more they change after all.” (page 13, Knowles)
To me, this sentence really makes you think. What I get from this sentence is the more things stay the same, the more you realize how much you’ve changed as a person and how much your life has changed from the past. Things that once meant so much now seem like a novelty. You remember things a certain way, and they are still the same way you remember them but the area doesn’t feel like it did in your memory. You look for what has changed in you to make things different from what has happened to now.
James Ellis, excerpt from “A Separate Peace: The Fall from Innocence,” The English Journal, vol. LIII, no. 5, May 1964, pp. 313-318. Reprinted with permission. Bloom, Harold, ed. Bloom's Guides. New York: Infobase, 2008. Print. John Knowles' A Separate Peace.
James L. McDonald, “The Novels of John Knowles.” Reprinted from Arizona Quarterly 25.4 (1967) pp. 335-342 by permission of the Regents of The University of Arizona. Bloom, Harold, ed. Bloom's Guides. New York: Infobase, 2008. Print. John Knowles' A Separate Peace.
Paul Witherington, “A Separate Peace: A Study in Structural Ambiguity.” From The English Journal 54, no. 9 (December 1969): pp.795-800. Reprinted by permission. Bloom, Harold, ed. Bloom's Guides. New York: Infobase, 2008. Print. John Knowles' A Separate Peace.