A Separate Peace
A Physical Setting As a Crucial Element For The Plot Of The Story
A Peace Setting
The setting of A Separate Peace leaves the reader transfixed. imagining the story taking place outside of an all boys school or even outside of a school is a ludicrous idea. The east coast contains certain qualities that bring the story to life due to the weather and state. The plot would never have survived anywhere else, because all other locations will multifariously disrupt the story in a blitzkrieg of change. In A Separate Peace, the physical setting is an important asset to the development of the story’s plot.
A Separate Peace is set at Devon School, which is a boys school. A Separate Peace would be majorly different if the boys had to share their school with girls, due to the fact that girls can be a huge distraction to boys with their querulous behaviors. Gene and Finny definitely cause enough trouble without girls changing the plot of the story. “Like all good schools, Devon did not stand isolated…”(Knowles pg 11). The school setting is great because it is a boarding school and it shows the innocent foolishness of boys when they are at school. The plot is centered around the school, so a different setting would cause vagaries to take place and change the entire story. Another factor of the greatness of the setting is the area.
Devon is located on the east coast. The east coast has some of the most beautiful weather. If the location is different, the plot will not be smooth like it is. “Devon is sometimes considered the most beautiful school in New England,”(Knowles pg 12). If the setting location had been different, the weather would have changed, there might have been no snow or tons more snow. Another great thing is the landscape of the east coast. The school was near the Naguamsett River and also near a beach. The beach is a necessity because it creates a venerable scene of friendship. This plot only works well in the area it was set in.
A Separate Peace would never work in another country, because the plot pretty much is about the boys preparing to enlist in the United State army during the war that is happening. Since the best scene is at the beach, the midwest would be an awful choice for the story. “Not long afterward, early even for New Hampshire, the snow came,”(Knowles pg 92).Cognition shows that the plot takes drastic turns during the snow. Snow is an asset of the plot so the south and west coast would never work for the story. The desert is one place that the story can not happen in at all due to fact that trees, grass, and large bodies of water are absent from the desert’s landscape.
The most important asset to A Separate Peace is the physical setting, because it develops the plot of the story. The story was set in an all boys school which is good because, “ Single-gender schools present a viable option and an opportunity for boys and young men to learn”(Patterson pg 39),but also allowed the boys to be less polite in the rejoinders of the witticisms that occurred. The boys live in bellicose harmony on the east coast. The east coast is the only area in the world suitable for the plot. The given setting is perfect, any other setting would have ruined the story.
Relationships Between Finny and Gene in a Separate Peace Novel
Finny and Gene: First Friends, Then Rivals
Good friends trust in and live close to one another, but when one begins to compete fiercely to be better than the other, then the resulting conflict is often monumentally harmful to the state of their friendship. Rather than directing their powers of disagreement and enmity towards one another, friends should constantly watch over each other so that he/she may be successful in all of his/her pursuits. In some scenarios, the relationships between friends go terribly wrong. In Knowles’s A Separate Peace, The friendship between Finny and Gene is shattered because of Gene’s competitive actions, coupled with the emotional pressure World War II puts on both of them during the course of their time at Devon.
Sometimes the failure of a friendship is the result of one of the friend’s faults, rather than caused by the general disagreement and bickering between the two of them. During their summer semester at Devon, Gene and Finny have a wonderful time together, from beginning the Suicide Society, to playing Blitzball, to taking a secret outing to the beach. Though they do have the time of their lives in some respect, Gene begins the pay the price for letting his academic obligations fall by the wayside. The day they return from the beach, Gene flunks his trigonometry test. Later, he reflects on what it would mean for him to come out on the top of his class and for Finny to be the star athlete at school: “If I was head of the class on Graduation Day and made a speech and won the Ne Plus Ultra Scholastic Achievement Citation, then we would both have come out on top, we would be even, that was all. We would be even…”(52). At this moment, Gene realizes that his ultimate goal for the summer semester is solely to become even with Finny. For some reason, he feels it necessary to compete with this best friend. In fact, Gene goes so far as to assume that Finny has this goal already in mind and is, as he realizes this, already working to cut him down from achieving this “getting even” or better, achieving superiority. Gene believes that Finny procured these elaborate diversions simply to derail his attempts at success. The reality is, Finny, in no way, would ever work to undermine the achievement of his friend. Gene is truly at fault here. While he obsesses over his studies and being better overall than his friend, letting jealousy get the best of him, Finny goes on happily with his life, carefree and blissfully ignorant of what enmity is brewing within his friend. When Finny finally realizes what has been concerning Gene all of this time, that he, like anyone else needs to study, Finny reacts like a true, good friend should: “ He looked at me with an interested, surprised expression. ‘You want to study?’
I began to feel a little uneasy at this mildness of his, so I sighed heavily. ‘Never mind, forget it. I know, I joined the club, I’m going. What else can I do?’
‘Don’t go.’ He said it very simply and casually, as though he were saying, “nice day.’ ‘Don’t go. What the hell, it’s only a game’ ” (57).
After Gene hears this, his defenses lower. After all, with such a nonchalant, innocent reply, it is impossible to detect any hint of ill intentions at all. Finny wants Gene to do well and always has. Later, Finny claims that he never new that Gene had to study. Gene never really accepts Finny’s innocence, though, because he ends up going along with him to the tree later. One of the most pivotal events of the book occurs shortly after the confrontation when Gene “jounces” the tree limb, knocking Finny off the tree and maiming him. It is evident, therefore, that the fiercely competitive attitude Gene adopts in an attempt to be superior to Finny fails, in that he ultimately becomes a detriment to their friendship as a whole.
World War II, though it is a background theme, also influences the relationship between Gene and Finny. The two of them are emotionally uptight with the looming future of the draft. Gene contemplates what it will mean for him to enlist and leave the “separate peace” of the Devon School. He claims that he “owed no one anything” (102) and, therefore should be able to make whatever choice he pleases. By saying this, though, he entirely ignores Finny. To enlist would mean that Gene leaves everyone close to him behind, and his friendship with Finny would be destroyed once and for all. Though we are never sure whether he actually does enlist, the mere idea of it troubles Finny. When Gene breaks the news to him, it is evident that he does not like the idea of it. Though he doesn’t say it outright, Fin’s expressions and feelings express his opposition to this idea. More and more, it becomes evident that Gene and Finny do not exist on the same plane of thought, which eventually brings their friendship apart.
Throughout the book, Finny has little or no problems getting along with Gene, whereas Gene comes to ruin their friendship entirely. It began with the jouncing of the limb when he managed to take away one of Finny’s greatest strengths: athleticism. One thing Gene never could strip Finny of was his goodness. Even after the incident, Finny continued to deny the fact that his best friend was responsible for crippling him and went on with life as if he was never injured. Finny always gave Gene a second chance, but Gene just did not see it.
Analysis Of The Novel “A Separate Peace” By John Knowles
The novel A Separate Peace is mainly focused on an adult, looking back at his youth, named Gene Forrester who turns out to be our narrator. Gene looks back at his childhood from a more mature point of view and greater wisdom. Gene imagines going back to his old prep school in which he attended fifteen years ago. This particular school is called Devon, inside of New Hampshire. For some odd reason, this school has no girls, and seems to be very strict. While Gene wonders around the school’s campus he starts to notice how different the school is, in a good way. To him, it seems “more perpendicular and strait-laced, with narrower windows and shiner woodwork as though a coat of varnish had been put over everything for better preservation”. Gene also continues on to explain that he “didn’t entirely like this glossy new surface, because it made the school look like a museum, and that’s what it was to me, and what I did not want it to be”. The school was most likely not in the best shape when he was a young boy considering the fact that there was a war going on in the year 1942. World War II was going on overseas and Gene was sixteen years old which only meant that in two years, Gene was most likely going to be drafted into the war. This opening scene creates a mood of fear that affects the entire novel.
At this point, the story starts to shift back into a flashback of the year 1942 when Gene was still in school during the war. The flashback begins halfway through the first chapter and lasts throughout the whole entire novel, creating an odd effect. Once the narrator drops us back into the 1940s, the story is told from the perspective of the younger Gene. Yet somehow the narrator often seemed to squeeze in critical notes and calm thoughts that seemed to be from the older version of Gene.
Gene had a best friend named Phineas, but we, later on, get to know him as “Finny”. Knowles, the author somehow brought these two boys together considering the fact that they are polar opposites and they both have different opinions. Gene sees the world as an awful hurtful place with separation. This could have been due to the fact that there was a war going on at the time. “The war was and is a reality for me.”. On the other hand, Finny saw the world as a kindhearted place. The author made Gene more aware of what was going on, while Finny was a bit slower at realizing the horrible things in this world, or in other words, reality. The friendship between these two roommates was far from simple. For example, Finny would always push Gene from his own comfort zone and do things he clearly did not want to participate in, such as jumping from the tree branch and getting involved into a wrestling match that made him miss dinner. “Why did I let Finny talk me into stupid things like this?” More importantly, it is quite obvious that Gene had a grudge towards Finney, even though he never really admitted to it. Gene was portrayed as being jealous of Finny for some the tiniest things. For example, Gene said that he finds it “galling” that Finny weighs ten pounds more than he does.
Later on in the novel, Gene’s envy for Finny started to show even more. Gene watched Finny talk his way out of trouble, first with Mr. Prud’homme and the Mr. Patch-Withers. Gene felt “unexpectedly excited” at the idea of his friend getting in trouble but soon after he felt “a stab of disappointment” when Finny wiggles himself out of trouble. Gene tried to be reasonable with his emotions and mixed feelings due to the fact that he did not want to see Finny being punished just to not see him suffer but it turned out Gene just wanted to see the excitement that the punishment would have brought. “I just wanted to see some more excitement,” Gene seems to struggle to convince even himself, adding, “that must have been it.” Soon after Gene insisted that Finny was his best friend and that just being friends with someone like Finny was and honor seemed pretty forced. Even though Finny truly is a special person, what Gene didn’t say as loudly as what he did. His choice of not to return Finny’s profession of friendship on the beach reveals his envy. This meant that Gene was divided between respect and bitterness. Love and hate.
At this point in the novel we begin to learn more about Finny as a person, even though it is through the perspective of Gene. Finny’s character traits were obvious. He had some fun and humor inside of him, enthusiasm, and what seemed to be genuine devotion to Gene. Finny loved playing sports and doing physical activities, in fact, he had a goal to be the best but he had no desire to beat anyone else. His refusal to publicize his swimming record at the school proved his humbleness and modesty. His goals were only meant to prove to himself that he could do it. “Blitzball”, a game that both Finney and Gene created was a game that everyone competes in, but nobody wins, was just another example of his sportsmanship and great attitude not only toward sports but also toward life in general. Finny did seem to have one flaw though, which became even more clear later on throughout the novel. He seemed to be portrayed as self-centered as he did fail to recognize the fact that others might be different from him, with different opinions, needs, and fears. He just assumed that because he wants to jump every night Gene will want to as well. For example, on the trip to the beach, Finny never even bothered to ask himself of Gene might not want to skip school to spend a night on the sand. Finny never expected a “no” meaning Gene was never brave enough to give him one. But at the same time Gene always assumed that everyone had the same level of jealousy and competitiveness as himself. For example, if he were to be competing with Finny, he just simply assumed that Finney must be competing with him too. He overcame this feeling by convincing himself that Finny is just as bad as he is, rather than trying to improve himself.
A very shocking moment from the novel was when Gene intentionally pushed Finny off a tree, making fall and injured. While Finny is in the hospital, the first thing that Gene did was putting on Finny’s clothes and imitating Finny’s appearance in the mirror. This unusual act showed the line that separates his own identity from his best friend’s. To relieve his guilt about his involvement in the fall, he tried to escape his own identity by going in someone else’s clothing, or in other words someone else’s identity. While Gene was starting to become Finny he let his own guilt fades away for a few minutes. But his little plan of escaping did not work because he soon after felt even more ashamed about the accident because he knows how jealous he was of Finney and he could not help but think that his envy somehow got to his actions. Gene’s desire to be Finny makes him confess. He admitted that what he was thinking was wrong because he thought that Finny would have done the same if he were in Gene’s position. However Finny had no interest in Gene’s confession, in fact he was in denial. While Finny’s life is slowly changing forever due to the accident, his friendship with Gene grows even more. The relationship became the center of his life, especially when he returned to Devon later on into the novel. Chapter 5 was basically a summary of the next two chapters later on. In these chapters Gene creates a plan that would cut his tie with his best friend. Here Gene confesses to knocking Finny from the tree therefore destroying their friendship once and for all but Finny still refused to accept the truth.
Towards the end of the novel Finny goes in an operation to set the leg again, when a marrow from the broken bone enters the bloodstream and his heart stops. He was gone. All this was so unexpected. Gene accepted the news without crying, because he had felt that he also died, too. The novel ended with Gene thinking about Finny’s great gift, his ability to remain innocent, to see the world as a good place, and to never even imagine the chance of an enemy. Later, after the war, Gene looks back and understands that he fought his real war at Devon. The book’s last lines made me wonder if Finny’s perspective on the world is just simply the most realistic then any of the other characters. If what we consider the enemy is only a fabrication of some profound ignorance in mankind’s inner being.
A Look at the Aftermath of Conflict As Portrayed in John Knowles’ Book, a Separate Peace
War and Peace: The Effect of War in A Separate Peace
1939 to 1945. In just six years, in just a span of a senator’s term, 2.3 billions lives have went off the map. A generation of teenagers is forced to grow up too fast, forced to threw their futures away because the world is drunk on greed and warfare; only to wake up everyday, surround with images of tragedies and gruesome relivings. The horror of World War II cannot be described, cannot be fully comprehended unless one actually observed it. However, writers around the world are always try to offer the audience a glimpse of World War II through their works. In A Separate Peace, John Knowles chooses an alternative route to deliver the impression of the war; he describes the generation that is about to enter the reality of the war, their views of the world, their dreams and aspirations and how they find moments to be teenagers and to escape the impending war. In A Separate Peace, John Knowles paints a tranquil picture of how the boys achieve a separate peace through the Winter Carnival, yet their actions and the settings are tinged with war-like images.
The war presents itself through the boys’ actions in the Winter Carnival. The Winter Carnival is similar to any carnival. However, the undertone of military in the preparation of the Winter Carnival is felt through “Brinker[‘s supervision of] the transfer, rattling up and down the stairwell and giving orders”. This manner of actions sparks a comparison among the readers between Brinker and a general preparing for a paramount battle. The connection reflects the amount of influences the boys receive from the war. Their actions, even though it is just as simple as talking to a classmate or climbing the stairs, are all being infused with the flavor of the armed forces. This fusion is also emulates by the “[station of Brinker’s] roommate, Brownie Perkins, to guard [the cider] with his life”. No friend would have stationed their friend; the specific reference to the word allured to the mannerism of the boys’ actions, particularly Brinker’s. An instance of heavily war influenced action is found when “Phineas sat behind the table in a heavily carved black walnut chair; the arms ended in two lions’ heads, and the legs ended in paws gripping wheels…”. This portrait of Finny emits a sense of power and arrogance that mirrors the leaders in a strategy room, planning for a battle. Additionally, the distinct sketch of the chair injects the majestic and superior feeling into the mood and minds of the audience. The injection is heightened by “Chet Douglass, [who] stood next to [Finny] holding his trumpet”. Trumpets and other musical instruments are used in many military events, especially those with a prominent militaristic sonance. The very companionship of the trumpet boosted the grandiose of the Carnival as a whole. The raw effect of World War II is observed by the readers after Finny announced open fire on Brinker. “Gene got one of the jugs, elbowed off the counterattack… then went through with [his] original plan by stopping Brinker’s mouth with [the cider]”. This savageness is carried out with a more friendly and harmless intention; in spite of that, the stunt still conveys a vicious and brutal tone that is quite related to the tone of battles in wars. The use of unique and unambiguous word choices to describe the boys’ actions by Knowles forges a connection in the readers about the war to the boys.
In addition to actions, the settings and prizes of the Winter Carnival also shows how much of an effect war has on the school and the boys. The “battleship gray [sky]”and how it is “an empty hopeless gray and gives the impression that this is its eternal shade”; the color grey and its shades are associated with emptiness, void and sadness. The word “battleship” also very precisely points in the direction of the war and military. The relation makes the audience realizes that all detrimental destructions of World War II that are seen by the boys in the newspaper, even though are flicked off as nothing, still very silently and subtly grasps the boys tightly with its poisonous vines. The punishing spell of the war reveals itself more when “winter’s occupation seems to have conquered, overrun and destroyed everything…”. The allusion of the winter’s weather and sky to a tired and collapsed human being with specific uses of words like “conquered”, “overrun” and “destroyed” seemed to relate to a war to not mentioned. The settings of weather and sky are not the only allure of the war; prizes Finny set out for the winners also reflects that: “…Betty Garble photographs, a lock of hair cut under duress from the head of Hazel Brewster…”. All of these prizes can be classified in one word for any soldier: memorabilias of home. These prizes are widely popular among soldiers because it reminds them of what are waiting for them back home and the normality they would experience when they are finished with their duties. With the allures and subtle images, Knowles delivers a final straightforward blow to the readers, reminding them about the impending war that still hang on the heads of the Devon boys. This blow is executed through the mention of “a forged draft registration card” as one of the prize. This forged draft card is a grow-up gift because at the age of 18, the boys will be forced to sign up to be drafted. This represents the forced maturity the boys experience because they are living in the time of war. The card is definitely the most prominent reminder of warfare after all the cheerful and mischievous activities in the Winter Carnival. Through settings and prizes, Knowles emphasizes on the war’s influence over the boys at Devon School.
John Knowles successfully delivers a message that in or out of a war, the images would continue to live on in one’s head. The message was conveyed through the boys at Devon School’s actions and the settings of their Winter Carnival in the novel A Separate Peace. Through his writing, John Knowles makes the statement that in every war, when it comes to a conclusion, there is always a winner and a loser. Winner and loser refers to the damages each sides received. However, if the readers or anyone are to look over that physical damages, one would realizes that is anyone really a winner when resources were depleted and lives were lost. This idea of no winner and all loser is depicted in the novel by how the massacre and killing in World War II starts to closing the boys’ innocent eyes with its deadly touch and starts to kill them softly and subtly with its stream of evil; only to leave them waking up in foreign territory surrounded by landmines that are the result of being forcefully matured.
Assessment of John Knowles’ Book Characters in a Separate Peace: Finny Vs. Gene
A SEPARATE PEACE
The literal meaning of “A Separate Peace” is a tranquility unaffected by the uproarious events of the outside world. The novel takes place during World War II, however, Finny and Gene have a quiet little world of their own unmoved by the war and tragic violence occurring around them.
After Finny’s injury to his leg, he decides to train Gene for the 1944 Olympics and is determined to dedicate the year for this cause. Throughout this time period, Gene’s friendship with Finny grows stronger and the boys become closer, although after the accident it would seem like they should grow apart. Gene feels horrible for causing Finny to fall out of the tree and in an effort to be a good friend to Finny, he goes along with Finny’s ideas, such as the idea of training for the Olympics. When Finny realizes he cannot go to war this upsets him terribly and causes him to go into denial. He refuses to acknowledge any existence of the war in his attempt at achieving a “separate peace”. Engaged in his crusade to deny war, Finny drags Gene deeper into his fantasy world where everything is peaceful and serene, and even keeps him from associating with the other boys who talk about enlisting in the war. It’s as if the “separate peace” Finny strives to create in every waking moment is meant for himself and Gene alone and can work only when the two of them are behind it 100 percent. Finny feels that the only person who can truly understand him is Gene and he wants Gene to share fully in his exclusive view of the way of the world should be- A world of games and sport, unbothered by real issues such as war. During the winter, Finny goes as far as creating a winter carnival to distract everyone from thoughts of war. The carnival and Olympics are a clear escape concocted to achieve a peace separate from the problems of the outside world.
After Finny breaks his leg for the second time, he finally admits to the harsh reality of the war and tells Gene his reasons for denying the existence of the war. After his death, Gene enlists and war finally becomes real to him as well. At this point, Gene finally comes to terms with Finny’s unique gift. He had no enemies; therefore he had no defenses. To be friends with Finny was to experience a “separate peace” unlike any other in the world.
Gene Forrester is the narrator of the story. Having Gene as the narrator serves many purposes. Everything that happens is seen through his eyes and the only way we know what is going on, is by what he tells us. He has the ability to step back and observe events as an outsider, rather than giving a one sided view of someone that is involved in an incident. It allows us to understand exactly what he is thinking and feeling, emotionally as well as physically. When he tells his story it is obvious that he does not have too much self-confidence. That may seem like a problem but it is quite the opposite. Having an overly self-confident narrator would not be as effective because the reader would not be able to identify with him. Gene characterizes many fears and hopes we all possess making it easier to relate to the book.
The turning point of the novel is when Gene causes Finny, his best friend, to fall off the tree and break his leg, therefore altering the course of Finny’s life forever. Finny, Gene, and the other boys go down to the river to jump off the tree branch as they often did during the summer. Normally Gene goes along with Finny’s ideas happily, as they are best friends, but recently he had been thinking about his relationship with Finny and begins to think that Finny uses things such as their “tree jumping sessions” in order to cause Gene to fall back in his studies and thus keep Finny as the leader in everything. They go down to the river and Finny suggests he and Gene jump off together. However once they reach the top Gene “jounces the branch” and Finny tumbles backward onto the riverbank, breaking his leg.
The entire course of the story changes after this pivotal incident. Finny’s life can never be the same because the leg injury is so severe that it will keep him from his pride and joy, sports, for the rest of his life. Gene becomes extremely confused, no longer seeing any motivation in his life and is no longer as certain of his own nature. Ironically, Gene becomes lost without the friend he tried to hurt. Once school resumes for the new year, with Finny absent, Gene has to struggle with his guilt and the suspicions of his classmates about how the accident was really caused and who was the cause of it. Finny has the internal struggles of whether or not Gene is truly his friend but he pushes those thoughts out of his memory and denies to himself and everyone else that Gene caused the accident.
After this point both boys realize the importance of friendship. Gene realizes that Finny was truly his friend and had no intention of harming him. Finny realizes that “Something blind” made Gene cause the fall and that his friend is truly his friend. Although this fall causes Finny to die at the end, it teaches both boys many invaluable lessons about life and friendship.
After Finny breaks his leg for the second time, Gene comes to visit him in the infirmary. At this point in the story, Finny admits that the only reason he claimed there was no war was because he knew he would never be of any use in the war. Until he could fight in it, the war would be nonexistent to him. He says that once he would have gotten a letter saying he could enlist there would be a war. Gene than begins to tell Finny that he wouldn’t have been any good in the war even if nothing had ever happened to his leg. This surprises Finny but he listens silently, trying to hold back the tears as Gene goes on to explain.
Finny has leadership capabilities and many people eagerly follow him so he would be put somewhere up front. However, he also puts way too much trust in the people around him and would never think any harm could come to him. Finny doesn’t take many things seriously and always enjoys a good laugh. The only thing that is sacred to him and must be given all serious respect is sports. Being athletic is very important to him and he takes much pride in his abilities on the playing field. Therefore, as Gene says to Finny, “there would be a lull in the fighting” and before anyone knew what hit them he would be “over with the Germans or the Japs, asking if they’d like to field a baseball team against our side”. He would probably assume a game of baseball, or any other sport for that matter, would be a better way of solving their differences than fighting a war. He has a self-confidence that shows and his personality is totally unguarded. Finny is fun loving and extremely easy to get along with due to his great sense of humor and ability to laugh at himself. As a result of this trait Finny would end up making friends with soldiers from both sides, causing confusion in the war. Gene points out that no one would know who to fight anymore and unknowingly, Finny would make a big mess out of the war. Finny would not be suited for war because he would not take it seriously enough. To him, it would be more of a game than a real war.
When Gene Forrester opens the story and begins to tell about the events of the summer of 1942 one of the first things he says is that he was “damned” if he climbed the giant tree beside the river. This statement is extremely ironic because he does indeed climb the tree and jump off the branch, many times in fact, and in a way climbing the tree does “damn” him, or curse him.
Finny brings Gene and three other friends down to the riverbank in hopes that they would all jump off the tree and start a new custom of Upper Middlers being allowed to jump into the river as practice for the war. Finny jumps first and lands impressively in the water. The other three boys refuse to jump, and Gene, although he said he’d be “damned” if he jumped, does climb the tree and jump into the water with the hopes of impressing Finny. Because they were the only two that jumped, it brings them much closer together and sets a precedent for the summer events. The boys jump off the tree almost every day to kick off the day’s events and although he is reluctant to do so, Gene goes along with this idea. After weeks spent with Finny playing his games and following all his ideas, something takes over Gene. He begins to feel like Finny is trying to keep him from his studies so he can keep his position as the leader, and as the top athlete, keeping him in his point of being highest ranked in the class. He gets so filled with rage that one day when Finny suggests that he and Gene jump at the same time, he shakes the branch and causes Finny to fall, changing both lives forever.
Ironically, climbing the tree was, in fact, ill fated as Gene unknowingly predicted when he made the statement that he would be “damned” if he climbed the tree. Beginning that tradition of climbing the tree all summer was the real reason Gene was damned. If he had never climbed the tree, Finny wouldn’t have fallen because of Gene, eventually leading to his death, and Gene wouldn’t have had to spend the whole year wrestling with his guilt and the provocations of his fellow classmates about what happened that day.
The relationship between Gene and Finny is a microcosm of the outside world, although they do not realize it. There is a big war, World War II, going on in the world outside of the school the boys attend. People are fighting and dying and there is very little real loyalty and trust. Though no one realizes it, the same thing is happening in Devon School at that time period. All the boys begin to turn against each other and no one really has any allegiance to anyone else, as in the war. For example, Brinker, who was once a friend of Gene and Finny’s, turns against both when he creates a mock trial to find out what caused Finny’s accident. Things like this begin to happen more and more as the war outside of the school presses on as well. The school is a reflection of the world, both of them including things such as jealousy, violence, gossip, and torment.
Finny and Gene’s friendship alone can also be a likeness of the outside world. Even when there is a war going on, countries have allies even though they have different agendas and philosophies. Similarly, Gene and Finny hold on to their friendship despite their differences in character and outlook. Although everyone around them is turning against one another and breaking all trust, just as among the countries at war during World War II, the two friends maintain their loyalty to one another. In the same manner that a few countries remained allied.
During the summer of 1942 the things Gene is exposed to force him to grow up very quickly. The summer starts of as many childhood summers start, filled with innocence and fun. However, things quickly take a turn for the worst when Finny comes up with the seemingly harmless idea of jumping out of the tree into the river. When Gene jounces the limb and causes Finny to fall, both lives are drastically changed. Gene grows up a lot over the next year after the accident. He develops a lot emotionally and realizes the value of a true friendship. He begins to question his judgment and place in the world but at the same time he begins to discover who he is inside, helping him to mature a lot more. After Finny’s death Gene also realizes that all things have consequences and in life you have to learn to deal with them.
During this time, Gene is also exposed to the war, which makes him grow up faster than a normal teenager should have to. The authority figures in the Devon school, as well as the other students, pressure him to enlist, and he sees the effects of the war taking their toll on his friends. For example, his friend Leper was always quiet and seemed happy, but after enlisting in the army he comes back a different person. He was mentally incapable of dealing with the basic training and seems to be almost insane. Seeing this drastic change in someone like Leper scares Gene. By the same token, he watches Finny go into complete denial that any war even exists and sees the emotional damage it causes Finny when he realizes no one will take him in the army and with his leg damaged he is useless in the war.
Being exposed to a life altering accident, death, and war all at this young age makes a person mature and grow faster than normal. Gene is forced to accept the reality of the harsh world and learn to live in it. He becomes more in touch with the world and understands it better. The world is no longer just fun and games to him. It is real.
Gene Forrester and Phineas share a bond unlike any other in the world. They are best friends throughout the book and are there for each other through the good and bad events of their lives. Their personalities are complete opposites yet they have enough in common to be able to stay friends.
Gene is the narrator of the story. When we are first introduced to Gene we see that he is very thoughtful and smart, yet also soft-spoken and does not speak his mind as often as his friend Finny. He is also very innocent and has not yet experienced life in the outside world. He would prefer not to be noticed in a crowd, rather than being the center of attention, and is more of a follower than a leader which complements Finny’s controlling personality. Gene rarely comes up with ideas of his own and lacks the initiative to follow them even if he did. He would prefer to go along with Finny’s ideas and feels that if he didn’t he would be inferior to Finny. He always seems to be struggling with the choice of whether to go along with his own instincts or to follow the crowd. On the other hand, Finny just does whatever he wants and does not care what everyone else is doing. Gene seems like the type who would never break the rules however there is a glimmer of a daredevil inside that needs to be ignited by someone like Finny. Finny is a spontaneous boy who lives for adventure. If he does not find a challenge he creates one of his own. Gene is also very sensitive and envies Finny’s talents and popularity with everyone.
As opposing as Gene and Finny seem, the two boys share many of the same personality traits and have a lot in common, although they may not realize it. Both boys are jealous of each other to some extent. Finny, who seems perfect in Gene’s eyes, is actually envious of Gene’s academic skills and Gene, very obviously, is jealous of Finny’s athletic capabilities. Neither one of the boys is selfish and each would do anything for the other. This is shown when Gene devotes much of his time to helping Finny after the accident and Finny would do anything to help Gene, even though Gene caused his accident. A final similarity the two share is their willingness to block what really happened the day Finny broke their legs out of their heads completely.
Understanding Self-Conception As Demonstrated By John Knowles In, a Separate Peace
A separate peace is a novel that has become a classic since its release. The novel is about two young boys growing up during the war at a military school. Details of the boy’s day to day life thicken with hidden meanings and themes intricately weaving throughout the duration. One of the foremost and obvious themes of the book is Gene’s subconscious Loss of self-identity due to the imposing achievements of Phinny. This theme illustrates a more astute meaning in terms of now. Presently children are being exposed to the same kind of mental development exhibited within the book. Television in particular plays a role in this grotesque process. Media is harmfully affecting the concept of self inside the minds of many children and teenagers alike.
In A Separate peace a select passage conveys Gene’s loss of identity. The story has just started a falling motion after a dramatic climax. Phinny has just fallen out of a tree the boy played and jumped off of into a river. Phinny is a very talented athlete in the book and exceeds Gene in almost every aspect. Gene looses himself too jealous and self-destruction. He begins to hate himself and takes on the role of Phineas or Phinny. His anger and frustration finally peaks on top of the tree when he pushes Phinny from the tree breaking his leg, afterwards Gene apologies to the Phinny. “ And I lost part of myself to him then, and a soaring sense of freedom revealed that this must have been my purpose from the first: to become a part of Phineas”(Knowles 85). This quote shows Gene’s Affinity to become Phinny; he faces his own discrepancies by becoming a person he sees as perfect. Gene has a mental instability with his self-esteem and confidence. He is a role modern for contemporary societies youth.
Modern day’s so called advancement is beginning to sprout and divulge it’s own devilish products. Television for example was once viewed and thought to be a great advancement for the helm of news. Television most certainly drifted from that stance in the last 3 decades. If only there were worthwhile, educational shows that weren’t so explicit and violent. (Winn 13) The harmful effects of television weigh deep into the minds of adolescent minds through many means. The first and foremost of these is the loss of identity. Adolescent minds watch television from an early age. With the age of television introduction becoming younger and younger, the younger viewers begin to watch television at a very early age, before their brains develop certain principles. ”Television is a large part of daily life.”(Winn 17) With this inflection of Media, the mind will grasp hold of principles differently than in previous decades. The viewer could view him or herself as the character in a favorite show, or think they are apart of the life going on around that show. Never realizing simple characteristic’s of fictional show and ultimately leading to serious mental difficulties in the future.
A separate peace illustrates the importance of self-identity loss through the character Gene. He looses his own selfdom in jealous and hatred for his own being. This same problem exists throughout the world of today, conveyed by television and the media.
Narrative Changes in a Separate Peace
High school is a time for great physical, mental, and emotional changes in youth. Some students experience a one-foot height change, others, an epiphany. These changes happen over the course of high school, but can be brought about quickly under the correct circumstances. In the novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Phineas is another victim of high school changes, catalyzed by injury. He begins his adolescent life normally, as a superb athlete, yet a tragic “accident” wrecks his chance at a this normal life and puts Finny in a state of denial. However, he eventually accepts his reality by snapping out of his dreamer mentality. The progression of Finny’s mental state is indicative of how trauma can catapult the normally unsettling growth of youth in high school into a state of disbelief and denial, detaching one from reality.
Finny begins life at Devon school as a dreamer. He has a free spirit, creating activities and doing odd things for pure amusement. As Finny is trying on unusual clothes, he ponders “…what would happen if I looked like a fairy to everyone” (17). Phineas really does not care what others think about him; he is just curious for his own sake. This dressing scene and the pages following in which he wears the pink shirt demonstrate his carefree attitude towards life. After swimming in the school pool and breaking a record, Phineas notes how “The only real swimming is in the ocean”(37). He is unimpressed by the fact that he breaks the school’s record, but wishes to swim in the ocean, as if doing so were somehow a greater feat. He does not pay heed to the fact that he is breaking an important rule, and might even miss class. The first few chapters of A Separate Peace stress the dreamer mentality of Phones in other ways. In addition, Finny has no visible fear of things that others commonly are afraid of. For example, the dreaded tree is a nonissue in the mind of Finny. He jumps first, saying, “here’s my contribution to the war effort” (8). Others in his group of friends tremble at the sight of the tall tree. Even Gene is skeptical about the safety of the tree to begin with, only jumping after Finny goes first for reassurance. Phineas chooses what needs to be done, and sticks with his decisions without fear of failure.
To save Gene from falling from the tree, Finny “shot out and grabbed my [Gene’s] arm, and with my balance restored, the panic immediately disappeared” (24). He does what has to be done instantly, without questioning himself in the process. Finny lacks fear of things that could be serious issues to others. It is this lack of fear that makes his injury so tragic. After his fall from the limb, Phineas denies that Gene jounced the limb, and disavows the existence of a raging war. It seems to Gene that Finny actually believes that the war is a joke made up to subdue the people. When discussing other conspiracies, Finny states that “they couldn’t use that trick forever, so for us in the forties they’ve cooked up this war fake” (107). Phineas of course denies the existence of the war with his inner logic, seeming sensible and realistic. This constant self-justification is proof that Finny really does not even believe the theories himself. He is just using them as a shield to avoid his own reality. He asserts this theory again when Mr. Ludsbury talks of the war; Finny explains that Ludsbury believes in the war because he is “Too thin. Of course” (114). This statement goes back on his former idea that “fat old men” created the war and contrasts Ludsbury to these men. Mr. Ludsbury is a symbol for the rest of Devon, and even the rest of the world. Everyone believes in the war but Finny, and he is alone in his theories because he needs the protection. The theories of “fat old men” give a sense of justification to Finny that he is not needed in the war, even though he would love to participate. It kills Finny to sit at home without truly participating.
Phineas also denies the fact that he fell directly because of Gene jouncing the limb. Finny does begin, after his injury, to suspect Gene by having a “crazy idea, I must have been delirious”(58). This idea is immediately dismissed by Finny, however, as it could ruin the friendship. Finny chooses not to pursue this topic because it would get him nowhere, much like accepting the war would. Nothing could be done to change the past at this point. As response to Gene’s visit and confession, Finny asserts, “Of course you didn’t do it. You damn fool. Sit down, you damn fool”(62). No matter how Gene tries to approach the topic with Finny, his feelings of disbelief will not budge. He is completely denying this fact because Gene is his only true friend, and their bond could be ruined for him if it were true. After his final accident and before his untimely death, Finny does eventually accept the harsh reality of his situation. He acknowledges the existence of the war. After Leper’s ordeal Finny realizes that “If a war can drive somebody crazy, then it’s real all right! Oh I guess I always knew, but I didn’t have to admit it”(156). The war had then personally affected one of Phineas’s close friends, forcing the reality of it onto him. Finny could no longer lie to himself and others about the war. He lied about the war because he could not participate in it: “I’ll hate it everywhere if I’m not in this war! Why do you think I kept saying there wasn’t any war all winter?”(182). Finny’s leg injury prevented his probable experience if the war. A great athlete like Finny’s past self would have been perfect for the war, but all of his chances were ruined when he was jounced by the limb. Finny accepts that Gene caused all of this, that all of his pain and suffering was due to Gene. After his second fall when, Gene attempts a late night visit, Finny yells, “You want to break something else in me! Is that why you’re here!”(176). It is not just limbs however that were broken due to Gene. Finny’s chances at life, a future, and a normal high school were all ruined as well. Fortunately, Finny holds no grudges on his deathbed, accepting and giving reasons that did what he did. Finny explains that “It wasn’t anything you really felt against me, it wasn’t some kind of hate you’ve felt all along. It wasn’t anything personal” (183). Finny eventually understands the subconscious feelings that Gene has been having. He accepts this fact knowing that Gene is not to blame, and should not feel sorrow towards Finny. He ends his short dreamy life as a realist, with no regrets or qualms regarding his killer.
In his short life, Finny passes through three personas involving stages of acceptance: a dreamer, denialist, and finally a realist. His crippling injury took away his childish perspective, and forced hiding and lies upon him. His second injury removed his shields and forced an acceptance of harsh reality. Seeing life from a different perspective, whether it be as a cripple or a realist, can give the reader an entirely different mindset for determining what is important, and what can be easily forgiven.
A Contrast Between Finny and Brinker in a Separate Peace, a Novel by John Knowles
In the book “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles, two of the characters extremely contrast each other. Phineas is a mischievous and vibrant person who brings other characters together for sports and other adventurous experiences. He was known as the leader of the summer session, forming clubs and inventing sports for all to play. Finny’s reign ends, however, when he breaks his leg, symbolically ending the summer. Brinker Hadley, on the other hand, is the polar opposite of him. He is more conservative, devoted to rules, and constantly suspicious of others. Brinker is seen as the leader of the winter session, when the war draws closer than ever, and discipline is restored at Devon. Finny and Brinker represent the summer and winter sessions of Devon.
One of the main characters, Finny, represents the summer session at Devon. He is carefree, and doesn’t follow rules. During the summer session at Devon there is a substitute headmaster, who is more lenient about the rules and policies of the boarding school. It is a time that represents the innocence of the boys, before the war. As said by Gene in Chapter 2, “I think we reminded them of what peace was like, we boys of sixteen…We were careless and wild, and I suppose we could be thought of as a sign of the life the war was being fought to preserve….Phineas was the essence of this careless peace.” (Knowles #). Finny is known by others to be carefree and calm. He doesn’t seem to worry about anything in the future, while others are worrying about the upcoming war. But once Finny falls out of the tree at the end of the summer, this innocence and careless way of life meets its end, welcoming the start of the winter session.
One of the other characters, Brinker Hadley, represents the winter session at Devon. He is, and constantly follow the rules. During the winter session at Devon the true headmaster, who is serious and strict about the rules. It is a time that represents the incoming World War II, and the boys of Devon being faced with the real world. As said by Gene in Chapter 6, “Across the hall…where Leper Lepellier had dreamed his way through July and August amid sunshine and dust motes and windows through which the ivy had reached tentatively into the room, here Brinker Hadley had established his headquarters. Emissaries were already dropping in to confer with him.” The people around Brinker see him as a tough hard person, similar to a drill sergeant. Though it was said jokingly, Gene is subconsciously realizing the war is drawing closer to Devon.
In the book “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles, Brinker and Finny extremely contrast each other. Finny is more childlike and carefree, and is the leader of the summer session of Devon. But when Finny falls out of the tree, the summer ends as does the carefree attitude of the students. Brinker, however, is the opposite. He is a stickler for the rules and arrogant. Brinker is seen as the leader of the winter session, while the school becomes affected by the upcoming war. Finny and Brinker represent the summer and winter sessions of Devon.
A Look at the Ideas Evident in John Knowles’ Book, A Separate Peace
A Separate War and Peace
“In the same way the war, beginning almost humorously with announcements about [no] maids and days spent at apple-picking, commenced its invasion of the school”. The quiet atmosphere of Devon was rudely interrupted as the maids and harvesters were called to war duty. These examples and others amplify World War II as a vital and significant event in the backdrop of A Separate Peace. The motifs of war and sports are connected, Finny’s absence brings the war to Devon, and Phineas and Gene have a number of important connections to the war.
A Separate Peace is a novel filled with a plethora of symbolic and allegorical meanings, and among the most important are the recurring motifs of sports and war. When Phineas—the best athlete at Devon—suffers a fall, he becomes a casualty and is sidelined from the war forever. Throughout the novel, Finny repeatedly discusses with Gene about the war saying, “that’s what this whole war story is. A medicinal drug . . . The fat old men who don’t want us crowding them out of their jobs. They’ve made it up”. Only near the end of Finny’s life is it revealed to us the truth that Finny longs to be a part of the war. But this can never happen because Finny is a representation of peace; peace and war can never mix and this results in the death of Phineas. Similarly, after his fall, Finny trains Gene for the 1944 Olympic Games even as Gene insists that the Olympics will be canceled because of the war. This is because Phineas can’t fulfill his dream and participate himself. This further develops the concepts that “Phineas thought of [Gene] as an extension of himself” and that Gene is truly “Phineas-filled”. Phineas’ persistence for Gene to participate in the Olympics develops the relationship between Gene and himself. Finny takes on the role of a coach or a father as Gene becomes the athlete or child because Finny hopes Gene will fulfill his dreams for him. Blitzball, another representation of the motifs, embodies the war. Blitzball gets its name from the German military tactic Blitzkrieg. It is built upon the principles that everyone is the enemy, similar to war in real life. Through Phineas, John Knowles brings together two completely opposite ideas and exemplifies how they can never live in harmony.
Likewise, when Phineas and the concept of sports leave Devon, the war slowly creeps in. As stated by Phineas himself, “sports don’t seem so important with the war on”. This is first shown at the start of the Winter Session, but later confirmed after his death. During Finny’s period of rehabilitation, Brinker and Gene decide to enlist in the war effort. Gene also attempts to take up a job which—much to Finny’s chagrin—“has got [nothing] to do with sports”. Only after Finny’s return does Gene realize that he needs Finny, and that this is reciprocated by Phineas. After Finny’s death, a part of Devon is given to the war effort to make parachutes. This is the last piece of the puzzle needed to understand that the war has come to Devon. After the subsequent conversation with Mr. Hadley—a military veteran himself—Gene leaves Devon to join the war. He later goes on to say, “I was on active duty all the time at school; I killed my enemy there”. This advocates the idea of war entering Devon long before, and justifies the notions of maturation and its leading into the war.
Furthermore, both Gene and Phineas have multiple connections with the war themselves. During the Summer Session, Phineas leads the boys in playing games and breaking rules. They are immersed in their own world, apart from the war; they are in a “separate peace.” In the novel, Phineas uses the war to his advantage. When confronted at the headmaster’s tea for using the Devon school tie as a belt, Finny says, “it all ties in together with the war . . . this bombing in Central Europe, because when you come right down to it the school is involved in everything that happens in the war”. In reality there was no bombing in Central Europe but by using a made up story about the war, Phineas is able to escape from a monumental offense. Another predominant part of the novel is Gene’s internal conflict. It is first revealed to us in the early stages of the novel that Gene is unable to reciprocate Finny’s feelings toward him. “This time [Finny] wasn’t going to get away with it. I could feel myself becoming unexpectedly excited at that”. Later on when Gene jounces the limb, it is out of feelings of enmity and jealousy because “[he] was not of the same quality as [Finny]”. These feelings are the enemy Gene talks about killing later in the novel and thus he is on “active duty” throughout the book.
World War II is a critical and instrumental aspect in the backdrop of A Separate Peace. As it turns out, the recurring motifs of sports and war have a pivotal connection. It is evident that during Finny’s absence, the war manages to creep in and destroy peace at Devon. Phineas and Gene also hold many parallels to the war themselves. Without the war, A Separate Peace would lose meaning to key processes such as maturation and innocence. The war causes the boys to mature from adolescence to adulthood: Gene kills his enemy, Brinker regresses from a model student to a rebel, Leper changes from sane to psychotic, and Phineas—as an embodiment of purity and peace—perishes. Without the war, Devon wouldn’t be “A Separate Peace.”
Friendship in a Separate Peace by John Knowles and the Movie Dead Poets Society
Friendship: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
One of the main elements in both the coming-of-age novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles, and the quirky movie Dead Poets Society, written by Tom Schulman and directed Peter Weir, is friendship. Friendship can involve many stages, and at times, can be very complex, but in pure definition it is “a relationship between two or more people who are friends” (Encarta Dictionary). Both works feature a boarding school in which teenaged boys interact with each other on a daily basis. This is how friendships are made. However, all friendships can undergo rough patches. A true friend will stay by his comrade through all of these times. By paralleling the positive and negative aspects of the friendships between Gene and Finny from A Separate Peace by John Knowles, and Todd and Neil from Dead Poets Society, it is made clear that friendship involves a significant amount more than just sharing interests, hobbies, or activities, but rather, standing by another’s side through all things, good and bad.
Gene and Phineas usually referred to as “Finny”, share a very complex bond. At a glance, it is clear that they are friends, but, at a deeper level, they may not be. In every friendship, there is always one friend that is the “friendlier”, more dominant friend, who usually is more enthusiastic, energetic, or adamant about going someplace or doing something with the other. It is obvious that Finny is this friend; Gene is more reserved and studious than Finny is. Because Finny believes so much in his friendship with Gene, and in its strength, he is willing to ignore his thoughts that Gene might have had something to do with his accident:
I don’t know, I must have just lost my balance. It must have been that. I did have this idea, this feeling that when you were standing there beside me, y— I don’t know, I had a kind of feeling. But you can’t say anything for sure from just feelings. And this feeling doesn’t make any sense. It was a crazy idea, I must have been delirious. So I just have to forget it. I just fell…that’s all…I’m sorry about that feeling I had. (Knowles, 66)
Though there is much evidence that could prove that Gene made Finny fall out of the tree (for example, he was on the branch when Finny fell), Finny chooses to depend on his trust in Gene to know, or choose to believe, that Gene did not push him out of the tree. Even though Finny is the more trusting friend, and Gene is the more paranoid and untrusting friend, Finny still helps him prepare for the Olympics and supports him: “Did I ever tell you, that I used to be aiming for the Olympics?…And now I’m not sure, not a hundred percent sure I’ll be completely, you know, in shape by 1944. So I’m going to coach you for them instead… Leave your fantasy life out of this. We’re grooming you for the Olympics, pal, in 1944.” (Knowles, 117) This may seem ironic because Finny, with his shattered leg, could use more support than he gives Gene, Through Gene’s point of view, however, it could be seen that Gene is supporting Finny, too. Finny wanted to go to the Olympics, but now with this leg, that cannot even be possible, so in fact, Gene is helping Finny live out his dream. Finny’s support for Gene is more physical because he himself cannot succeed anymore in that area, while Gene’s support for Finny is more mental because Gene is more pronounced in that area. In addition to helping with all of his homework, in fact helping him graduate from high school, Gene allows Finny to live in his own fantasy world, where the war is concocted by fat cats in business suits sitting in board rooms eating steaks and everyone wins every game and there are never any losers:
Have you swallowed all that war stuff?… Do you really think that the United States of America is in a state of war with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan?… Don’t be a sap, there isn’t any war… The fat old men who don’t want us crowding them out of their jobs. They’ve made it all up. There isn’t any real food shortage, for instance. The men have all the best steaks delivered to their clubs now. You’ve noticed they’ve been getting fatter lately, haven’t you? (Knowles, 115)
This eventually, in a way, backfires on Gene because he eventually starts believing Finny’s ideas on the war too. And that’s where it all begins to go downhill.
Neil Perry and Todd Anderson, though they can be considered friends, do not share the same bond as Gene and Finny. Todd is the shyer of the two, most likely because he has been stuck in his older brother’s shadow, as his brother also went to Wellton and excelled in everything. Because Todd is so shy, Neil, being the optimist he is, encourages him to participate more in life: “You were there. Don’t you want to do something about it?” (Weir) When the boys confront Mr. Keating about the Dead Poets Society, and he tells them about how the boys could use poetry to understand the world, and make women swoon, most of the mare quickly on board. All that is, except Todd, who Neil later talks to. Todd doesn’t want to participate in case they are caught, which could mean expulsion from the school. However, Neil, like Finny, wants everyone around him to be as happy and carefree as he is. He is often shown trying to cheer up Todd and to inspire him to: “…Suck the marrow out of life” (Weir) with wisdom such as: “Horseshit. Nothing’s impossible.” (Weir) Neil is more of the type to throw caution to the wind and deal with the consequences later but Todd is very cautious and practical. When he hears all that Neil wants to do, or something he dreams about, Todd is often a voice of reason. However, he can be very negative, which balances out Neil’s optimism, but at the same time can be a little overbearing and offsetting: “The point is, that there’s nothing you can do about it.” (Weir) Many times, when Todd makes these unintentionally depressing comments, we as readers can see into what shaped his character into the discouraging way it is now, and how Neil lightened it, until he committed suicide.
Friendships, like life in general, can go through rough patches. Things are not always easy; people do not always agree with one another. When bad things start to happen to good people, it is easy to lose hope and start to doubt in even one’s closest friends. When Finny tries to inspire the students at Devon to keep their hopes up, and starts the Super Suicide Society that requires long nightly meetings, Gene begins to lose his trust in Finny, as he believes that Finny is sabotaging Gene’s incredible efforts to academically succeed to make himself a great student at Devon:
“After all, he should talk. He had won and been proud to win the Galbraith Football Trophy and the Contact Sport Award, and there were two or three other athletic prizes he was sure to get this year or next. If I was head of class on Graduation Day and made a speech and won the Ne Plus Ultra Scholastic Achievement Citation, then we would both have come out on top, we would be even, that was all. We would be even. Was that it!… Finny had deliberately set out to wreck my studies. That explained blitzball, that explained the nightly meetings of the Super Suicide Society, that explained his insistence that I share all his diversions.” (Knowles, 51-53)
Of course, Finny is doing no such thing; he genuinely thinks that Gene is really into all these activities and has no intention of trying to one-up Gene. Between the pair, Gene is definitely the more paranoid and untrusting, but there are times when Finny is just the same, though never coming close to the same level as Gene. Finny’s one great doubt, probably the one time he doubts anyone or anything in the entire novel, is that he thinks that Gene knocked him out of the tree which, eventually, lead to his examination by the “court” and breaking his leg a second time. This is when his world of blissful ignorance as he knows it collapses around him: “You want to break something else in me! Is that why you’re here!” (Knowles, 184) When reading this, an image of an injured animal comes to mind. Finny, like a wounded predator, is backed into a corner, and to protect it, violently lashes out at those near him. He doesn’t understand that Gene just wants to comfort him. Todd is also like this, except his outbursts do not stem from possible deceit of a friend. Instead, they stem from shyness and ignorance: that by everyone who knew his older brother and expect him to do the same and be as exceptional, standards to which he could not reach. When Neil, being the outgoing person that he is, tries to help Todd, Todd blatantly refuses: “I can take of myself just fine.” (Weir) Neil continues to try and be a friend to Todd, never discouraged at all by Todd’s remarks about his not needing anyone’s help.
With both of these pairs, one could argue that neither were friends with the other; Gene is constantly paranoid that Finny is trying to out-due him, and Todd and Neil never shared a close bond, they were only roommates. These are both true, but if special notice is given to the circumstances, it can be seen that this can also be proven wrong. Finny considered Gene to be his best friend, and though Gene can think the worst of Finny, it can be noted that Finny could point out a great deal more worse in Gene than Gene could of him, and Finny still considered Gene a friend. It may appear that Todd does not see Neil as a friend, but that would not explain all the times that the two exchange advice, or all the times that Neil cheered Todd up, such as the time when Todd’s parents sent him the same desk set as they did the previous year. Friendship is not always visible in its most common form, but people are not all the same, so it would be most unwise to assume that it would only take one form for everyone.