A Separate Peace Chapter 10 Summary

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In the tenth chapter of 'A Separate Peace' by John Knowles, Gener reacts to the telegram sent by his friend. Gene travels to Vermont to find out what has happened to Lep and finds his friend very unstable.

Gene Ventures Out

What would you do if you got a distress letter from a friend you thought was living the good life?

In chapter ten of A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Gene's soldier friend has sent a telegram to the boys at his old school, asking for help because he has escaped. Having no idea what is going on, Gene makes the trek to Vermont to find out what his friend escaped from.

Lep's Background

During their junior year, Elwin Lepellier, or Lep, lived nearby and was a trainee for the boy's club called the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session, but had not graduated to being a full-fledged member because he refused to jump off the suicide tree. Supposedly, although no one really believed it, he was planning to jump on the day that Finny was injured falling out of the very same tree.

Gene was always nice to him and had learned to appreciate his idiosyncrasies, like snail collections and hikes to find beaver dams, but Lep was just the kind of kid that got made fun of.

Surprisingly, Lep becomes the first boy at Devon to enlist after watching a video of the ski patrol and feeling he has found his calling. Half-joking, half-hoping, the boys at Devon assigned Lep credit for every advancement of the war. When they get a telegram from him asking for help, they are left confused and surprised.

Gene Flashes Forward

On the way to Vermont, Gene flashes forward to the following year when he his entire army career consisted of traveling from place to place in America for military training exercises. Thanks to 'the final holocaust of the Bomb', as Gene puts it, most of the kids his age never stepped foot on foreign ground.

Gene Finds Lep

When Gene arrived, Lep led him into the dining room where he spends most of his time. Lep looked like he was about to cry as they sat down across from each other. Gene asked Lep how long he's on leave. Lep snapped at him that he has escaped and that Gene doesn't know what he's talking about. Lep's 'voice fell to a querulous whisper--'you're thinking I'm psycho.''

Immediately, Gene feels uncomfortable and mental hospitals begin popping into his head. Gene's first thought is for his own mental health when he will eventually go into the service.

Section Eight

Lep explains that the army planned to give him a Section Eight, or dishonorable discharge for the mentally ill. Lep knows this means he will never get a job. He says, 'You're screwed for life, that's what a Section Eight discharge means.'

What would you do if you were in Lep's position? Lep continues to ramble on with madness that is accompanied by alternating bouts of laughter, despair, and anger. When he turns on Gene, who he calls, 'a savage underneath', he accuses him of knocking Finny out of the tree. Gene knocks Lep over, but then apologizes when Lep's mother walks into the room and chastises Gene for hurting Lep while he is ill.

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