Influence of the War on Characters
Historical events can play an important role in a person's life. In A Separate Peace, the whole atmosphere at the Devon School changed as World War II progressed. The boys either eagerly awaited the draft, enlisted in the area of war they wanted, or did not want to go at all. The students at the school created new activities for enjoyment since the customary past times could not be played due to a lack of materials. When a friend "returns" from the war, the boys at Devon got a real sense of what the war was like. The boys learned that going to war was not all fun and games like they had anticipated. The influence World War II had on the characters in A Separate Peace and on life at the Devon School was clearly depicted through their actions and activities.
The beginning of the novel allows the reader to get a feel of what the Devon School was like during that time period. Students of "war age" were constantly leaving Devon to go to the war, either by choice or by draft. Whether kids wanted to go or not, the anticipation was always present. As winter approached the Devon school, so did the encroaching shadow of the war. The boys were called out to help shovel free a troop train trapped by snow-blocked tracks. The experience "brings the war home" for all of them, and they realized they would have to face a crucial decision very soon. Maturity leapt upon them, whether they're ready for it or not, at the tender age of seventeen. The excitement of the war had gotten to everybody at the school, including the staff, and made it a chaotic place. The boys were able to get away with disobeying the rules. Many students cut class and left school grounds often without being penalized.
When Leper "returned" from the war the boys realized that participating in the war wasn't all fun and games, and that a lot of bad things happened. When Leper told Gene how he had been discharged on charges of insanity, Gene blew up at Leper. Gene had thought the war was a good place, and the notion of a Section Eight Discharge was not what he wanted to hear. It completely ruined Gene's thoughts and his hopes. Gene was completely set on enlisting in the army to experience what so many others were experiencing until Leper informed him of the war's negative aspects. Leper, more disappointed than anyone, did not share his reason for returning home with everyone. He was ashamed, and did not want to share the horrors of war with everyone.