The goal and purpose of Dualism and Self-actualization in the Works of John Knowles is to list, analyze, discuss and compare the concepts of dualism and self-actualization1 as they relate to the content of A Separate Peace with the aim of presenting new insight into the unique application of literary technique and thematic intentionality in this novel and furthermore how the aforementioned constructs effectively function on a cultural level. In addition, the analysis of dualism and self-actualization will be included in the book descriptions of the remaining Knowles corpus in order to give a fuller understanding of these concepts and their centrality to A Separate Peace, and it will be shown in retrospect how certain crucial stylistic differences regarding expressive style, pragmatics, and aesthetic appeal result in the relatively tepid public reception of Knowles’ remaining eleven works: 1) Peace Breaks Out 2) Morning in Antibes 3) Double Vision; American Thoughts Abroad 4) Indian Summer 5) Phineas; six stories 6) The Paragon 7) Spreading Fires 8) A Vein of Riches 9) A Stolen Past 10) The Private Life of Axie Reed, and 11) “A Special Time, A Special Place”. These works2 are pertinent to this study on dualism and self-actualization3. John Knowles (1926-2001) is an internationally acclaimed American novelist most memorable for his first published short novel, A Separate Peace, a book that courageously takes the American reading public from the time-immortalized ideal of the American work ethic and moves it into the more sophisticated realm of an American moral ethic. This is done through the literary mechanism of dualism and the theme of self-actualization. A Separate Peace presents a private view into the civility of overt remorseless4 killing that is circumstantially waived upon the technicality of corpus delicti, it is an elaborate fictional scenario that sensibly divulges that American society is at continual war within and without5, a destructive conflict that leads to continual loss and a prolonged state of guilt that is sometimes a humanistic force in itself. The philosophical predilection and undertone in the arguments in this work are in respect to dualism and self-actualization through humanistic rationality (i.e., Romantic humanism) in approaching a sound explanation of the influence of A Separate Peace from within American culture.
The main purpose of such an examination is to distinguish the unique usage of dualism and self-actualization by John Knowles as a Romantic philosopher in his own right and in doing so to explore other fascinating aesthetic amenities embedded within his writings with special focus on war, truth, morality, subversiveness, emotional intelligence and other humanistic concerns and quandaries. The scope and purpose of the dissertation is to demonstrate the philosophical and literary uniqueness of the works of John Knowles with an emphasis upon the concepts of dualism and self-actualization.
The works of John Knowles follow a complex pattern of ideological, pragmatic, intertextual, and aesthetic finesse. The novel A Separate Peace, in particular, stands out starkly from Knowles’ eleven remaining published works5 in terms of the literary matrix of structure, content, conception and clarity of a singular style and the distinction between these qualities and the technique of their delivery through dualistic imagery and metaphorical reference to self-actualization merits further examination within the scope of this particular doctoral dissertation. Namely, the overall consideration of the basic functional elements of the novel may be identified as: setting, atmosphere6, plot action, style, characterization, and theme (as emphasized through allegory and symbol). The concept of dualism abounds in Knowles’ writing and therefore seeking an answer to the question of what dualism essentially means for the author is of import to this study. Self-actualization is an ideology in concordance with Western literary tradition and as such, it is a recurrent theme in Knowles’ novels and thus the concept of self-actualization parallels with the denotation of dualism as a central point of elaboration in this study.
In view of the stylistic structuring in this study, the Romantic method is the prevalent posture taken in presenting, arguing, questioning and confirming theories surrounding the concepts of dualism and self-actualization as they appear in the works of John Knowles. Romantic humanism7 provides a reliable knowledge base for the stylistic presentation of dualism and self-actualization in the works of John Knowles, and demonstrates how A Separate Peace continues within the style and tradition of the Romantic movement.
The research involved in this study applies the scientific method to introduce key theories set forth herein; citing empirical evidence for the stated arguments through scientific method provides original material for quantification and qualification of research dealing with dualism and self-actualization in terms of the selected primary litererature. The problem of the research at hand is to scientifically delve into the empirical subject matter in such a fashion as to lend new familiarity and understanding to new ideas surrounding dualism and self-actualization as they apply to the opus of John Knowles work.
CONCLUSION John Knowles in A Separate Peace writes Romantically using the literary device of dualism and the theme of self-actualization in order to more completely instigate catharsis in the reader. To this effect, the message of the novel becomes clear: it is human to rise and to fall.