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Barron's Booknotes-A Separate Peace by John Knowles

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1. Compare Gene Forrester's attitude toward the Devon School at the beginning of the novel and at the end, and then with his opinions 15 years later (the first six pages of the story).

2. Read carefully each of the passages in the first five chapters relating to tree-jumping and the meetings of the Suicide Society. How do they differ?

3. Give three instances of Finny's power over Gene and say whether or not you feel he abuses that power, and why.

4. Using three examples-from the beginning, middle, and end of the story-show how the boys' awareness of the war increases as time passes.

5. Describe the similarities and differences between Mr. Prud'homme, Mr. Patch-Withers, and Mr. Ludsbury. Do you think John Knowles is making fun of teachers? Why?

6. No one, not even Finny, can be 100 percent perfect. Describe one negative or unimpressive characteristic in Finny and give three instances where it shows most clearly.

7. Why do you suppose clothes play such an important part in A Separate Peace? Back up your answer with references to clothes consciousness in the story.

8. Choose one of Finny's rules (three are mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 3) and interpret it, using examples from the story. In each case, say how well you think Finny pays attention to and obeys his own rules.

9. Gene says, "Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him." Choose one such important moment in your own life, describe it, and explain why you have chosen it.

10. Why does Finny refuse to let Gene tell anyone when he breaks the school swimming record for the 100-yard freestyle? You'll develop your answer in light of your interpretation of Finny's personality up to this point.

11. Is the Devon School a relaxed, easygoing kind of haven, or is it a pressure-cooker environment? Use three examples from the story to support your point of view. If you believe it's a bit of both, show how.

12. A manipulative person is someone who habitually tries to get other people to do what he or she wants them to. Is Finny such a person? Give the basis for your answer, using examples of Finny's behavior.

13. Describe the effect of Finny's injury on Gene; on the other boys; on the atmosphere in Devon as a whole.

14. Compare Gene's two visits, to Finny convalescing and to Leper in distress.
15. Compare Finny's brand of leadership with Brinker Hadley's. Who would you prefer to have leading you, and why?

16. After Gene's fight with Quackenbush he says, "I fought that battle, that first skirmish of a long campaign, for Finny." Describe three other "battles" Gene wages and say whether or not he wins them.

17. While making his decision to enlist, Gene confesses that "there was no one to stop me but myself." How might this statement apply to other situations, before and after, in which Gene finds himself? Is he his own worst enemy?

18. What would you say was the high point in Gene and Finny's friendship? What was the low point? Explain the reasons for your choices.

19. Gene and Finny are as different as two people can possibly be and still be friends. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

20. Finny believes he can change Gene. What methods does he use in attempting to achieve this goal?

21. Imagine yourself a student at the Devon School during the time A Separate Peace takes place. How would you relate to Finny? What would you say to him? Would you be more inclined to be friends with Brinker, for instance? Why?

22. Describe Leper Lepellier, his actions and his manner, before he goes into the army; and the same person after he escapes. Would you have expected such a drastic change? Were you prepared, by elements in Leper's personality, for what happened to him?

23. Who is the bravest person in this story? Why? (Think carefully.)
24. Who is the most likeable person in this story? Why?
25. At the beginning of Chapter 5, after the first accident, Gene says, "I was Phineas, Phineas to the life." At the beginning of Chapter 12, after Finny's second fall, Gene says, "Phineas had thought of me as an extension of himself." Explain why both these statements are true.

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Barron's Booknotes-A Separate Peace by John Knowles

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