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A Separate Peace

A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

Rules and Order Theme

At first, A Separate Peace presents the classic struggle between young anarchy and old, established rules. This plays out at a boarding school, where the rules indeed seem restrictive and unwarranted. But other systems of rules soon emerge, as even the poster child for adolescent rebellion lives by a set of "commandments." Rules, then, do not always restrict and control. We learn that the best indication of a character is the rules that he lives by and the principles he follows.

Questions About Rules and Order

  1. What are the different systems of rules and order that we see in A Separate Peace? When do they conflict? Which "wins out" at the end of the day?
  2. Gene says of Devon's rules that, when you broke them, they broke you. Is he referring only to Finny's fall? What does he mean? Is that true in the novel?
  3. The narrator mentions Finny's "commandments" several times in the novel. Does Gene, too, live by these rules? Do these rules change after Finny's accident?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In A Separate Peace, identity is defined by the rules which one follows and those one chooses to break.

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