A Separate Peace
by John Knowles
A Separate Peace Theme of Rules and Order
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
- 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?
- 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?
- 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
In A Separate Peace, identity is defined by the rules which one follows and those one chooses to break.