IRJE: A Separate Peace

In A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, Gene Forrester reminisces about parts of his life 15 years ago, as he walks through his old school. In his eyes, Devon School has been well preserved; surprisignly, even more so than when he attended. As Gene describes his experience at Devon, it’s clear to see that he associates the school will fear, rather than with sentimentality. He attended the school in the early 1940’s, during World War 2, so this response seems only natural. As the novel progresses, we start to see more of the explanation behind his resonating trauma. However, as he’s reflecting on the surface-level growth of the school, he makes an observation about how his life has changed in 15 years.

Everything at Devon slowly changed and slowly harmonized with what had gone before. So it was logical to hope that since the buildings and the Deans and the curriculum could achieve this, I could achieve, perhaps unknowingly had achieved, this growth and harmony myself. (p. 7)

I find it fascinating to hear someone reflecting on their life at school. I always wonder what aspects I will remember, and what I’ll forget. Will details that are so significant to me now, be relevant to my future? Will I remain friends with any of my high school friends? In this passage, Gene isn’t certain that he’s experienced a prominent sense of growth nor harmony. It seems that he feels that his school has changed, but in a way, he still hasn’t. Perhaps this is hinting at aspects of his life that he hasn’t yet moved on from. As Gene explores his past, it seems that he never truly received the closure he deserved, and that his encounters and mistakes are still haunting him. This makes me wonder how memorable the events occurring in my life genuinely are, and how memorable they will be 15 years from now.

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