One component of war is the coming of age which is evident in John Knowles’ novel, A Separate Peace. It explores the lives of two teenage boys, Gene and Phineas, at a boarding school during World War Two. Gene’s coming of age is shown in this passage, “When they began to feel that there was this overwhelmingly hostile thing in the world with them, then the simplicity and unity of their characters broke and they were not the same again” (194). An observation is made by Gene about how the war makes the boys in his class realize the existence of evil in the world. The coming of age is present in all wars and throughout literature, because it has mental, emotional, and physical effects.
There is an accelerated maturation that comes along with being involved in war. Thematic images seen and events experienced bring changes in the people who live through war. Letters from the Revolutionary War, journals from the Civil War, posters from World War One, graphs from World War Two, and essays from the Vietnam War trace the coming of age in a person. It is always present in war time. A general understanding from those who never experience war is made through analyzing the different conflicts in literature and other mediums.
America’s struggle for independence during the Revolutionary War exemplifies the coming of age of a nation and its people. Declaring independence from Great Britain in the eighteenth century caused the thirteen colonies of America to go to war. John Conrad, a soldier under the command of General George Washington wrote to his mother, “You would think very odd if you was here to see how we live as unconcerned as if there was no enemy on the continent till the drums beat to arms and then three minutes is sufficient us to be ready to face our enemy” (Day). The mood of the soldiers is peaceful until the cue to fight is sounded then they have to be ready for the war. Expectations to mature quickly and toughen up are accompanied by expectations to know who the enemy is. Another soldier, Henry Johnson, writes in his letter about going to battle and being wounded, “… I got a wound in the head very Bad But I am in hopes with the Assistance of god that I shall git well again” (Carroll). Johnson still possesses a strong faith even with a life threatening injury. The Revolutionary War affected every American and still does to this day. It forced people to mature and realize that America is becoming its own country. Letters brought the issue closer to home giving loved ones details and insight on what was happening. Since war in any form is inevitable, America went from fighting for independence to fighting amongst themselves in the Civil War.
The Civil War broke out as a result of a divided nation. It was fought after the South split from the Union as the Confederate States of America. Henry W. Tisdale fought in the Civil War from 1862 to 1865 and his journal provides perspective on the reality of war. He writes, “Had a deeper view of the depravity...