American author John Knowles was born in Fairmont, West Virginia on September 16th, 1926. At the age of 15 he was enrolled in Philips Exeter Academy. Exeter is a well known boarding school in New Hampshire. John was the third child of James Myron and Mary Beatrice Shea Knowles. Knowles graduated from Exeter in 1945 and joined the war effort as part of the U.S. Army Air Force’s Aviation Cadet Program. Later, Knowles became a student at Yale University after completing several months in the Aviation Program. In 1949, he received a bachelor’s degree from Yale. Knowles became an avid writer during the 1950s. He published his first book A Separate Peace in 1959. The novel won both the Rosenthal Award of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the William Faulkner Foundation Award.
After Knowles graduated from college he worked at various jobs, starting from the bottom and eventually working his way up. He briefly worked as a reporter for the Hartford Courant. He wrote articles and occasionally theater reviews for the paper. John Knowles worked as a freelance writer from 1950 to 1956 then traveled to Europe to publish short stories. Later, Knowles became an associate editor at Holiday Magazine in 1957. Knowles also revisited Exeter Academy, and upon doing so Knowles suddenly got the idea to write about his experiences while attending Exeter. Upon writing A Separate Peace, Knowles was able to resign and devote his time to write fiction.
In the novel A Separate Peace there are a number of similarities between Knowles’ life and the story. First, the Exeter Academy which Knowles attended to is compared to the Devon Academy that Gene and Phineas attend. Both Academies are exclusive, private boarding schools and have extensive playing fields. Both of the academies’ student bodies consisted of all boys. Also Knowles attended the summer session in 1943 at Exeter, as did Gene and Phineas in Devon. While attending Exeter, Knowles was part of a...