A Separate Peace And How War Affects Youth

Because children who grew up during times of turmoil must endure psychologically and physically scarring experiences, the aftermath carries well into their adult life.

A Separate Peace is about two friends, Gene and Finny, who are at a boarding school during WWII. As their friends start going off to war, however, Gene and Finny’s friendship become complicated and entangled in the war, its meanings, and its outcomes.

The theme of A Separate Peace is that children who live in a time of war are usually affected negatively, in their choices, decisions, and what they learned along the way.

By having the story set in WWII, John Knowles delves into the usually unnoticed issues that arise when someone is a child in a period of war and turmoil. As Gene and Finny strive to do the right thing, the war influences them and their actions, and, by the end, leaving the two boys changed...forever.

“First, children who were school-aged during WWII had 0.4 fewer years of schooling on average in adulthood, with those in the most hard-hit cities completing 1.2 fewer years. Second, these children were about half inches (one centimeter) shorter and had lower self-reported health satisfaction in adulthood. Third, exposure to war deteriorates future labor market earnings of these children by 6 percent on average. An important channel for the effect of destruction on educational attainment appears to be the destruction of schools and the absence of teachers, whereas malnutrition and destruction of hospitals during WWII seems to be important for the estimated effects on health..."

Children affected by war had anywhere from 0.4 to 1.2 less years of schooling. Children affected by war suffered from malnutrition and other health problems. The future labor market earnings of children affected by war are lower by up to 6%. Lower self-satisfaction rates were prone to affect children who experienced war. Health problems were cause by the destruction of hospitals, and education problems were caused by the lack of teachers. All of these effects may seem barely existent on their own, but when combined, these qualities create low-confidence, unhealthy, unsuccessful human beings-all because of war.

“Attracted by waiting jobs, the number of high school dropouts increased significantly, resulting in the teenage workforce swelling from one million to three million youngsters. In the meantime, federal inspectors ignored laws that regulated the employment of children... There were five million ‘war widows’ trying to care for their children alone. Women employed outside the home left tens of thousands of ‘latchkey’ children who were unsupervised much of the day. The rates of juvenile delinquency... and truancy rose dramatically.”

Children dropped out of high school to go to work, even if it was technically against the law, and the inspectors turned a blind eye because they needed laborers for the factories to continue to work. Juvenile delinquency rose because children were losing their role models, as their mothers and older siblings were working and their fathers and older brothers were off at war.

“Separation from fathers or sons left devastating effects, and in a sense, many felt robbed of their childhood. With the family shifting roles, each member was initially shocked and filled with mixed emotions. With added stresses it was an emotional time, to say the least — the American family would undoubtedly be changed forever.”

Families shifted roles, causing stress and shock that wasn’t usually there. Mothers worked outside of the homes, so older siblings acted as parents-or just weren't there. Due to WWII, American families were changed forever, with women working more and children becoming more independent.

The Little Soldier by Eastman Johnson

The boy is ready to go off and fight, and he’s only nine or ten. He is resigned to his fate of fighting for his country. Children living in this war grew up too fast, their childhood devoted to the war. The kid doesn’t necessarily look happy about doing his job, but he does it anyway. The boy represents the innocence and childhood young kids lost because of the war.

The flyer shows Mickey Mouse, who is excited and ready for contributing to the war, which motivates the children. This flyer is targeted toward children using the commonly known cartoon character, Mickey Mouse. It is trying to get children involved in the war and Uncle Sam. The flyer shows how important children were to the war, and how the war involves and engages everyone. This flyer shows how children are affected and influenced by war propaganda and flyers, along with everyone else.

“In my dreams I go among the ruins

of the old part of town

looking for a bit of stale bread.

My mother and I inhale the fumes of


and I imagine it to be the smell of pies,

cakes and kebab.

Then a shot rings out in the street of


many people are wounded

sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers.

I reach out and touch a trembling,

injured hand.

I touch death.

Terrified I realize this is not a dream.”

Children who experience mass death in their childhood may have a hard time healing. If their homes, families, and childhoods are torn apart, their lives will never be the same. This is what war does to a child- it makes them see things they should never see, experience things they should never experience, and be destroyed the way they should never be destroyed.

Because children who grew up during times of turmoil must endure psychologically and physically scarring experiences, the aftermath carries well into their adult life.Children who grew up and lived their childhoods during WWII faced many psychological and physical problems because of the war. Not only were families torn apart, but people died alone, and children were crippled by the aftereffects. A Separate Peace shows this through Gene and Finny’s decisions and heartbreaks, and the various authors and artists show this through facts and based off real people. Multiple perspectives on the topic of how children are affected by war show the difference between first person accounts and people who merely looked at the facts. While both perspectives are important to fully understanding the topic, they provide different views. The first person accounts deal with raw emotion-fear, anxiety, confusion. The data based upon fact show the numerical effects-their self-confidence, height, and schooling. Multiple perspectives are important to learning more about topics, so that is why multi-modal and multi-perspective presentations are impact people the most..


Akbulut-Yuksel, Mevlude. “Children of War.” Children of War: The Long-Run Effects of Large-Scale Physical Destruction and Warfare on Children by Mevlude Akbulut-Yuksel :: SSRN, IZA, Sept. 2009, papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1489230.

“The American Family in World War II.” The American Family in World War II, Online Highways, www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1692.html.

Birnbaum, Gemma. “High School During WWII Through the Eyes of America's Youth.” The National WWII Museum, The National WWII Museum of New Orleans, 11 July 2014, www.nww2m.com/2014/07/high-school-during-wwii-through-the-eyes-of-americas-youth/.

“Come On Gang!” Docs Teach, www.docsteach.org/documents/document/appreciate-america-come-on-gang-all-out-for-uncle-sam-mickey-mouse.

Endrst, Elsa B. “In An Angry World... Suffer the Little Children.” 9ADAD. The author is credible because she works for UNICEF, which is an official organization. The information has a minor bias, because it is through the eyes of several children who were in the war and their stories. There are no ads.

Johnson, Eastman. “The Little Soldier.” The Loss of Innocence, www.docsteach.org/documents/document/appreciate-america-come-on-gang-all-out-for-uncle-sam-mickey-mouse.

Tyrer, Nicola. “Stolen Childhoods.” The author is credible because she has written many things and uses credible facts. The information has a minor bias-she tells the story of certain children in the war. There are no ads.

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