The Theme of Maturity in "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles

Essay by FrozenHatredHigh School, 12th gradeA-, January 2005

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One of the major themes in A Separate Peace is the coming of age. The theme of maturity can be viewed as a growing realization of the war in the school (in which the students realize that they have to enlist into the war "as men"), or the private and interior crisis one goes through (such as Gene discovering his identity as the novel progresses). The training and the sudden labors that the Devon students engage in attempt to prepare the boys for their future at the war; this can be seen as the external view of maturity in the novel, whereas the "internal" view of maturity can be seen in Gene's thoughts as he searches for his personal identity. Throughout the novel, both Gene and Finny experience important yet damaging issues in their life where they realize the need to face the reality of it or become lost forever.

As Gene discovers in the end, true identity can only be reached through maturity.

Gene and the students of Devon experience a sense of maturity through the sudden change in their once peaceful and war-shunning environment of the summer. In the beginning of the novel, we can see that Devon is like a "Garden of Eden"; it resembles a paradise in the center of all the wars and deaths that are happening outside Devon's barriers. Devon is seen as a milieu within a larger milieu (the rest of America at war). It seems that the students have lived their summer in a peaceful bubble of "Eden" in contrast with the background of World War II in the rest of the world. The summer of 1942 at Devon can be symbolized as the time of freedom and the exposure of youth; this is a moment in the novel where the students...