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A Separate Peace Chapter 7 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 chapter seven of 'A Separate Peace' by John Knowles, Gene is beginning to feel claustrophobic at the Devon School. After an uncomfortable social situation followed by an observation while working at the railroad, Gene makes a decision.

Planning His Escape

At this point in the story, World War II is raging, and Gene is in his senior year at Devon without his best friend and roommate, Finny. Gene injured Finny when he jarred him out of a tree and shattered his leg, but no one knows that Gene purposely hurt him out of jealousy. In chapter seven of A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Gene is willing to do just about anything to escape the prison that Devon has become for him.

Brinker Hadley

Brinker Hadley, the boy that has moved across the hall from Gene, stops by to see Gene as he does with everyone. Brinker, who is the politician of the class, comments on Gene's influence on the other students in the dorm. Brinker jokes that Gene planned to off his roommate the entire time in order to get a big room. Confused and uncomfortable, Gene tries to change the subject by asking Brinker to go with him to the Butt Room for a smoke.

The Butt Room

When they arrive in the Butt Room, Brinker proceeds to tell the students who are there about Gene's 'crime'. When Gene tries to join the joke and creates an exaggerated version of the story, Brinker calls him on it, so Gene adds that there was '…a small, a little contretempts down by the tree.' Contretempts can mean an argument, or it can mean an embarrassing situation, so this is somewhat ambiguous. Gene's only means of escape is when he turns on a younger student to fill in the blanks and makes him the butt of the jokes. 'Enough of this contretempts,' says Gene as he leaves the room. He overhears one of the other boys remark that Gene had not even had a cigarette while he was there.

The War Effort

Because all of the men who would otherwise be employed in jobs like attending orchards and shoveling snow off of the railroads are part of the war effort, the boys at Devon are given the opportunity to be paid to take on some of these tasks. While working on the railroad, Gene sees some servicemen pass on a troop train. 'They seemed to be having a wonderful time, their uniforms looked new and good; they were clean and energetic; they were going places.' Several of the boys murmur about how Devon is wasting their time when they should be collecting war stories. When talk moves to enlisting, Gene gets excited. He has just been waiting for someone else to bring it up.

The troops inspire Gene to join the war effort.
Troop Train

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