This novel delves into the topics many contemporary teenagers face, including internal conflict struggles with identity, the complexities of friendship, and the realities of peer pressure. Gene and Finny, two 16-year-old boys at an elite boarding school in New Hampshire, are dealing with all of these common teenage obstacles and their inevitable draft into the armed forces during World War II.
A Separate Peace Literary Conflict | Have students identify the types of literary conflict in A Separate Peace!
MAN vs MAN
The next time you call anybody maimed, you better make sure they are first!
MAN vs SELF
You're not even winded!
MAN vs SOCIETY
When Cliff Quackenbush mocks Gene and then calls him “maimed,” it hits too close to home and Gene loses it. He punches Quackenbush in the face and they fall into the river. Gene says this is the first of many battles he fights for Finny, as Finny has now become what is seen as “maimed.”
Gene’s guilt about what he’s done to Finny leads him to try to make it up to him. When Finny returns to Devon, he declares that Gene will train for the 1944 Olympics in his place. Gene is happy to do something tangible to try to make up for hurting Finny physically, and hurting him in his confession to him in Boston.
Leper goes against the constructs of society by losing his mind and going AWOL from the Army. He is unable to deal with the demands of training, which is something that is expected of all men during this time of war in the 1940s. He is also not expected to desert his post and flee to his parents’ house, which is considered both illegal and dishonorable.