A Separate Peace Essay Topics

You will be answering one the following questions for this essay.


*Read each of the questions carefully then choose your question for the essay. After you choose your question, reread the question a few times and synthesis the ideas being asked into a single thesis statement. It is not necessary to answer each question in the big question. They are there to make you think about the topic, the thesis, and what the so what (larger significance) will be in the essay.


1. Throughout the novel, Finny seems to force himself to remain in the innocent moment, denying both his accident and the war until Brinker and the trial force him to come face to face with his injury and Gene’s role in it. Yet, it is this knowledge that ultimately destroys him. What comment is Knowles making about people like Finny in the novel? Is it possible to stay youthful and free or is that simply irresponsible? Was it Finny’s naivety that destroyed him or Gene’s jealousy? Why can’t we remain forever young? Is it dangerous?


2. Throughout the first part of the book Gene is in a constant battle with himself about the nature of his friendship/rivalry with Finny. At times he feels that they are bonded by competition and deep enmity. Other times he feels that Finny is sincere, honest, and a true friend.  After Finny’s injury and return to school, Gene feels it is his duty to protect Finny and enforce Finny’s ideas and beliefs even if it means not following through on his plans to enlist or personal goals.


Considering Gene’s descriptions of the events in the novel, his descriptions of Finny, and his descriptions of their relationship, argue whether or not Finny is a good friend to Gene or would Gene be better off without Finny in his life. What statement is Knowles making about friendship? Were they ever really friends?


3. At the end of the novel Gene says, “Wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart” (Knowles 201). Considering these lines, what was the war that Gene waged in the novel and why was it based on ignorance? Consider how usually ignorance is attributed to the mind and not the heart. Why would Gene attribute it to the heart? What does he learn from his war and ultimately how is it resolved?


4. Competition and rivalry play a large role in the novel. Considering the relationship between Gene and Finny, discuss whether or not competition between peers is a healthy or unhealthy thing. What are the dangers of competition/rivalry? Consider the last lines in the novel about constructing Maginot Lines against imaginary enemies in formulating your thesis.


5. There is quite a bit of symbolism in the novel. There is symbolism relating to the characters’ names, relating to the war, and relating to the Bible. For this essay, choose one area of symbolism and explore the significance of the symbolism in relation to the themes in the novel. If you choose this option you need to address the significance and statement Knowles is making through the symbolism- do not simply show that it is present.


6. Throughout the book, Gene is associated with bitterness, rivalry, complicacy, and competence. In contrast, Finny is associated with strength, power, goodness, and excellence. Yet, it is Finny who dies and Gene who lives. Considering both characters write an essay about the strengths and weaknesses in both boys arguing who is the weaker character. Consider the statement Knowles is making about strength and survival through these young men. What does it take to survive in a modern world?


7.  Come up with your own thesis for A Separate Peace. It should look at a theme that is explored in the novel and on a universal level. Don’t forget to formulate a “so what” into your thesis, and make sure your topic is grounded in the text.  (I would highly recommend running your topic by me before starting your essay.)



1. Your essay will be evaluated on the following:

I. Content/ Organization 50 points

                A. Introduction

·         You will need an introduction that clearly introduces the topic and novel in a creative, specific way.

·         Your thesis will be the last sentence of the introduction. It needs to answer the question you have chosen, address what the paper is about, and answer the larger question of “so what?”


B. Body

·         The body of the essay should prove your thesis.

·         You will use a minimum of three quotations from A Separate Peace to support the thesis.

·         Each quotation should have a proper lead, followed by explanation and analysis.

·         Quotations will be analyzed and linked back to the thesis. Connections will be made.


C. Conclusion

·         Your conclusion will tie all the ideas in the essay together.


II.  Word Choice/ Fluency/ Conventions 50 points

·         Proper attention to spelling, grammar, and punctuation will be evident.

·         Run-on sentences and fragments will be avoided.

·         Quotations will be properly cited in the essay. Please use MLA format.


3. Your essay will be between two and four pages. Your essay will be typed, doubled spaced.


4. All prewriting is required on the day it is due and must be handed in with the final essay.  These are non-negotiable due dates! On each due date I will stamp it. It is your responsibility to keep it until you hand in the final paper.


Due Dates

Outlines: Monday, May 3, 2010 –15 points


Drafts:  Tuesday, May 11th, 2010    - 15 points


Final Draft: Monday, May 17, 2010 - 100 points