Important Quotes from "A Separate Peace"

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A Separate Peace Quotes

Use these quotes from A Separate Peace by John Knowles to make your teacher think you read the novel. Or use them when writing an essay, completing a test or doing a literary analysis.

Quote: “I supposed that Quackenbush was studying me to see if he could detect a limp. But I knew that his flat black eyes would never detect my trouble” (77).

Analysis: Gene knows that Quackenbush likes to assert his authority over those whom he considers inferior, on account of his own inferiority. It was common for the assistant crew manager, Gene’s position on the rowing team, to have some physical malady that prevented him from participating in a sport. Gene’s true limp, however, existed metaphorically in his soul. By expressing his deficiency in this manner, Gene highlights his desire to be just like Finny, whose limp is real, and whose limp he caused.

Quote: “They seemed to be having a wonderful time, their uniforms looked new and good; they were clean and energetic; they were going places” (97).

Analysis: This ironic description of soldiers going off to war belies the danger they would soon face. No matter how much students at Devon attempted to keep the outside world from encroaching, they could not.

More Quotes

Quote: “'…What I mean is, I love winter, and when you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love.' I didn’t think this was true, my seventeen years of experience had shown this to be much more false than true, but it was like every other thought and belief of Finny’s: it should have been true. So I didn’t argue” (111).

Analysis: Finny asserts his philosophy, a philosophy that leads to his fall. He always finds the best in everyone and in everything, which is why Gene’s betrayal has such an effect on him.

Quote: “I reflected to myself, people were shooting flames into caves and grilling other people alive, ships were being torpedoed and dropping thousands of men in the icy ocean, whole city blocks were exploding into flame in an instant. My brief burst of animosity, lasting only a second, a part of a second, something which came before I recognized it and was gone before I knew it had possessed me, what was that in the midst of this holocaust?” (188).

Analysis: Gene goes Lord of the Flies on us with his introspective philosophical rant on the inherent evil existent in humans.

Even MoreQuotes

Quote: “Phineas had died from the marrow of his bone flowing down his blood stream to his heart” (194).

Analysis: In short, Phineas died of a broken heart, caused from the broken bone, caused by the betrayal of his best friend.

Quote: “They’d get you some place at the front and there’d be a lull in the fighting, and the next thing anyone knew you’d be over with the Germans or the Japs, asking if they’d like to field a baseball team against our side” (190).

Analysis: Gene sums up Finny’s character in response to Finny’s desire to fight in the war. Finny’s death is symbolic of the triumph of evil over good and the fall from innocence hastened by the encroachment of the war.


  • Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. New York: Scribner, 1959.

This post is part of the series: A Study Guide for A Separate Peace

Bring peace to your grade and separate yourself from the masses with this A Separate Peace study guide.

  1. Characters in “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles
  2. Important Quotes from A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  3. Symbolism in A Separate Peace