A Separate Peace

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Themes and Colors
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
Sports and Athletics Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Separate Peace, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Though not a single shot is fired in the novel, A Separate Peace can be thought of as a war novel. World War II is a looming presence that none of the boys at Devon can escape. Once they graduate, they'll have to enlist. This fact makes the separation between childhood and the adult world very clear. Childhood is the high school world of sports, dreams, and carnivals, while the adult world is one of…

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Like most sixteen year-old boys, Gene and Finny and their friends struggle to define their identities. World War II complicates their otherwise typical teenage identity crises and forces them to define themselves first and foremost in relation to the war. Different boys do this in different ways. Leper decides to enlist, even though military life contrasts sharply with his gentle, nature loving instincts. Brinker Hadley assumes an air of bravado. Finny denies the war exists…

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When Gene returns to Devon fifteen years after graduation, he looks at the tree from which Finny fell and thinks, "The more things stay the same, the more they change." The tree looks vastly changed only because Gene's perspective has changed as he grew up and became an adult. A Separate Peace is the story of this changing perspective, of how things both change and stay the same.

As a story about boys anxious about…

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Finny views athletics as an "absolute good," and throughout A Separate Peace, athletic contests represent an idealized alternative to war. Like war, sports involve opposing sides intent on victory, but unlike war sporting events lack the casualties common to the battlefield. Finny's perspective on sports is exactly the opposite of his views on the war. He sees war as a construct invented by governments, a conflict in which everyone loses, while he believes "everyone…

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At the core of the conflict between Gene and Finny is Gene's desire to be more like Finny, or even to become him. Gene's jealousy of Finny corrupts their friendship and leads Gene to "jounce" Finny out of the tree. Some of Gene's jealous feelings toward Finny are casual, such as his desire for Finny's carefree charm. Others are more deeply rooted, so much so that even Gene doesn't understand their origin. For example…

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