A Separate Peace: Social SterotypesThesis: The five main characters in John Knowles’ A SeparatePeace represent social stereotypes, according to somepeople.
In his book A Separate Peace, John Knowles represents jocks withPhineas, a character who believes that sports are the key to life. Phineas ismore of a sportsman than a jock. Real jocks only care about winning, Phineasmakes sure it’s not possible for anyone to win or lose.Chet Douglas is an exaggerated prep, just like Phineas is anexaggerated jock.
He is obsessed with learning just for the sake of learning.No real hardcore prep thinks that way! Chet Douglas lives in his owneducational world. He’s so absorbed in this alternate reality in which Calculushas a justified existence that he forgets what the school is trying to teachhim, and actually goes out and seeks more academia than what the school isalready shoving down his and everyone else’s throat. The standard prep is onlyconcerned with being on the top of the Honor Roll, so that everybody’s parentscan marvel at how smart (s)he is.There is one character that fits into no stereotype. “Leper” Lepillieris an individualist. Individualists are people who don’t conform to socialnorms just for the sake of being accepted by others.
Real individualists arenot those people with blue and green hair you see on talk shows. Those peopleconform to a subculture, something that was less common during World War II.The real individualists of the world are quickly disappearing, as conformitybecomes more popular.
I haven’t met any real individualists, so I can’t saywhether or not Knowles exaggerates Lepillier’s lack of stereotype.In modern society, there is pressure on individualists to conform tothe most prominent subculture in the local area (I think). Those who fail toconform become outcasts, like the character Quackenbush. Outcasts areridiculed so that they see themselves as inferior to everyone. In the book,Quackenbush tries desperately to find someone who he is not inferior to, andstarts a fight with Gene. While outcasts are created in the same way asQuackenbush, he reacts much differently to being an outcast than most outcastsdo. To the standard outcast, everyone is the target, eventually, not just a fewinferior people.
Some people are self-obsessed. Gene would be a good example if he wasreal. Gene is overly obsessed with his own emotions, this is why we have to putup with all his garbage throughout the book. He is the type who would step overhis 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 calledsubcultures have formed.
Each subculture has its own social norms. They arelike a society within a society, and segregate the people even more than thesefive basic types of people did back in Knowles’ time.