In A Separate Peace, what are Gene and Finny studying on the night of the "trial," and how does this foreshadow what happens to Finny?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The night that Brinker and three others come to Gene and Finny's room to "take them out" in prelude to the trial in the First Academy Building, Gene is helping Finny with his Latin. Gene works to translate a passage  about Caesar and the Gallic War as Finny waits and listens. At one point, Finny asks if anything exciting was happening in what Gene was reading in Latin. Gene responds:

This part is pretty interesting . . . if I understand it right. About a surprise attack.

When Finny wants to hear about it, Gene's translation explains how Caesar was defeated in one battle through several surprise attacks by "a selected band of foot soldiers in ambushes." These references to "surprise attacks" and "ambushes" foreshadow the trial Brinker has arranged, using other students, including Leper, as his "foot soldiers."

Gene and Finny are caught completely by surprise when Brinker and the other students hustle them out of their room and take them to the scene of the trial. Gene believes at first it must be some kind of student prank; the sight of ten seniors sitting on a platform in black robes makes him think of "some masquerade with masks and candles." This notion fades quickly, however, when the tone of the proceedings becomes grave and "witnesses" begin their "testimony." In a short period of time, Brinker's ambush of Gene and Finny and his surprise attack brings out the truth of Finny's first fall and results in his second, fatal injury.

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