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Free Study Guide-A Separate Peace by John Knowles-Free Book Summary
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CHAPTER 10

Summary

Gene's journey to Leper's house is the first of many journeys he is to later make. Since Leper lives in Vermont, he must travel the whole night to reach there the next morning. During the trip, he thinks about what Leper meant when he said that he has escaped from the war. He assumes he is on leave from the army.

On his arrival, a nervous Leper greets Gene at the door and leads him into the dining room. When Gene asks him how long will he be staying at home, Leper becomes very agitated and does not answer. Instead, Leper asks Gene whether he thinks that he is "psycho." He then tells Gene that the army wants to give him a Section 8 discharge, for psychological reasons. Leper fears that he will never be able to get a job with a Section 8 release. Before long the two young men get into an argument. Suddenly Leper accuses Gene of making Finny fall from the tree. In anger over the accusation, Gene kicks the leg of Leper's chair, making him fall to the ground. Mrs. Lepellier enters and stops the fight. When she tells Gene that Leper is very ill, he is ashamed of his behavior.

After peace is again established, Leper invites Gene to stay for lunch. Gene feels so guilty about his behavior that he accepts. After they eat, Mrs. Lepellier proposes that the boys go out for some exercise. As they walk, Gene tells Leper that Brinker has changed a lot. With venom, Leper remarks that he would know "that bastard" even if he changed into Snow White. Leper then imagines Brinker's face on Snow White, which causes him to cry. He explains to Gene that lately he has been seeing different faces on different bodies and imagining inanimate objects, like the arm of a chair, suddenly coming to life. He has also imagined other things, like a man carrying an amputated leg and a corporal suddenly changing into a woman. Gene cannot handle Leper's strange behavior and stories. He suddenly cries out, "This has nothing to do with me. Nothing at all. I don't care." He then turns and runs away from Leper.

Notes

Leper's telegram makes the war a reality, close to home. Leper implies that his military experiences have been horrible when he tells Gene that he has escaped from the war and begs him to come for a visit. By the end of the chapter, however, it is apparent that man cannot really run away from anything.


The chapter begins with Gene's lonely trip to Leper's house; the fact that he travels alone is significant, proving he is no longer totally dependent on Finny. When he finally arrives and sees Leper, Gene is shocked, for the young man is a bag of nerves. He then tells about his strange hallucinations and explains that the army wants to give him a Section 8 discharge for psychological reasons. He also accuses Gene of causing Finny to fall out of the tree. As a result, the two of them get into a fierce argument. Gene reacts by kicking the leg of Leper's chair, causing him to fall to the ground; it serves as a flashback to when Gene caused Finny to fall out of the tree. When Leper's mother comes in to stop the fight and explain that Leper is very ill, Gene feels extremely ashamed of his behavior. He is frightened to realize that conflict causes him to do beastly things.

Gene contrasts his peaceful life at Devon to the harsh world that Leper has endured. He is glad that he has not suffered the conflicts that his friend has suffered. He cannot believe that the war has so quickly changed this sensitive, young man into a psycho. Gene then wonders if he too is psycho, since he is torn by conflicts over Finny. Even Gene, as the adult narrator, longs to escape the conflict and weariness of life; he wants to go back to being a carefree schoolboy.

When Gene knocks the chair out from underneath Leper, he reveals that he has not yet fully matured. He cannot control his impulsive, brutal actions to Leper, just as he could not control his brutality to Finny. Additionally, when Leper talks about his fearful images, caused by the war, Gene cannot take it. He immaturely cries out, "This has nothing to do with me. Nothing at all. I don't care." Gene refuses to acknowledge the reality of a world war, largely because he has not yet resolved his own personal war that rages inside him.

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