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A separate peace social sterotypes

A Separate Peace: Social Sterotypes

Thesis: The five main characters in John Knowles' A Separate

Peace represent social stereotypes, according to some


In his book A Separate Peace, John Knowles represents jocks with

Phineas, a character who believes that sports are the key to life. Phineas is

more of a sportsman than a jock. Real jocks only care about winning, Phineas

makes sure it's not possible for anyone to win or lose.

Chet Douglas is an exaggerated prep, just like Phineas is an

exaggerated jock. He is obsessed with learning just for the sake of learning.

No real hardcore prep thinks that way! Chet Douglas lives in his own

educational world. He's so absorbed in this alternate reality in which Calculus

has a justified existence that he forgets what the school is trying to teach

him, and actually goes out and seeks more academia than what the school is

already shoving down his and everyone else's throat. The standard prep is only

concerned with being on the top of the Honor Roll, so that everybody's parents

can marvel at how smart (s)he is.

There is one character that fits into no stereotype. "Leper" Lepillier

is an individualist. Individualists are people who don't conform to social

norms just for the sake of being accepted by others. Real individualists are

not those people with blue and green hair you see on talk shows. Those people

conform to a subculture, something that was less common during World War II.

The real individualists of the world are quickly disappearing, as conformity

becomes more popular. I haven't met any real individualists, so I can't say

whether or not Knowles exaggerates Lepillier's lack of stereotype.

In modern society, there is pressure on individualists to conform to

the most prominent subculture in the local area (I think). Those who fail to

conform become outcasts, like the character Quackenbush. Outcasts are

ridiculed so that they see themselves as inferior to everyone. In the book,

Quackenbush tries desperately to find someone who he is not inferior to, and

starts a fight with Gene. While outcasts are created in the same way as

Quackenbush, he reacts much differently to being an outcast than most outcasts

do. To the standard outcast, everyone is the target, eventually, not just a few

inferior people.

Some people are self-obsessed. Gene would be a good example if he was

real. Gene is overly obsessed with his own emotions, this is why we have to put

up with all his garbage throughout the book. He is the type who would step over

his own mother (or shake his best friend off of a tree) to get what he wants.

Since the time when this book takes place, new groups of people called

subcultures have formed. Each subculture has its own social norms. They are

like a society within a society, and segregate the people even more than these

five basic types of people did back in Knowles' time.

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