Loss of Innocence in A Separate Peace
In the human nature, naive ignorance of the world's imperfections eventually yields to the recognition that the world does contain hatred and violence. John Knowles places his novel A Separate Peace in situations which necessitate this emotional transformation. The characters become increasingly aware of the nature of the world. In addition, symbols help show the interrelation of ideas and events as they appear in Gene's subconscious mind. In this novel, setting, character, and symbols develop the theme of loss of innocence.
Setting expatiates the theme of loss of innocence. For example, the four major characters in this story are sixteen and seventeen years old, which is the age when teenagers prepare to end their childhood and become adults. Also, the Devon school, where the story takes place, is a place where boys make the transition to full adulthood, and so this setting shows more clearly the boys' own growth. Finally, World War II, which in 1942 is raging in Europe, forces these teenage boys to grow up fast; during their seventeenth year they must evaluate everything that the war means to them and decide whether to take an active role in their future and enlist or passively let the draft come to them. Thus, the war dramatically forces young men to grow up. Setting certainly develops the theme of loss of innocence, but other elements contribute also.
Character portrays the theme of loss of innocence. For example, sixteen-year-old Gene Forrester, the main character, is truly a child at the beginning of the novel. However, gradually he outgrows his childish jealously of his best friend Finny, who is very athletic and confident and to Gene seems unbearably perfect, doing flawlessly and getting away with absolutely everything. Gene also transforms his beliefs from the unconscious one that the world is created anew each morning to the realization that in actuality the morning actually changes nothing but the time of day, and no problem which exists by the light of the setting sun will have vanished in the sunrise. Furthermore, Gene gains enough confidence in himself that he no longer feels the need to present an illusion of a rich heritage; this transition shows his immense emotional growth from an immature child to a confident...