What is a quote that shows that Gene Forrester is intelligent and another that shows he is insecure in A Separate Peace?Please include page numbers and an explanation of why the quote shows that...

What is a quote that shows that Gene Forrester is intelligent and another that shows he is insecure in A Separate Peace?

Please include page numbers and an explanation of why the quote shows that Gene is intelligent or insecure. THANKS!!!!

2 Answers | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Gene Forrester's envy of Phineas is, of course, born of insecurity, and his observations of Finny are redolent with this insecurity.  For instance, in Chapter 2 when Finny wears a pullover roadcloth shirt in pink to class, and not one of the instructors said anything about it during classes, Gene remarks in his unsureness of himself:

I was beginning to see that Phineas could get away with anything....because of the extraordinary kind of person he was.  It was quite a compliment to me, as a matter of fact, to have such a person choose me for his best friend.

As Finny recalls the conversation he has had with Mr. Patch-Withers, Gene replies sarcastically, admitting to his insecurity: 

As I said, this ws my sarcastic summer.  It was only long after tht I recognized sarcasm as the protest of people who are weak.

In Chapter 3 Gene further admits that

I was subject to the dictates of my mind, which gave me the maneuverability of a straitjacket.

Later, when Finny breaks the school swimming record, he tells Gene that he just did this to see if he could.  Gene narrates,

Perhaps for that reason his accomplishment took root in my mind and grew rapidly in the darkness where I was forced to hide it.

Then, in their room, Finny tells Gene in his recognition of Gene's intelligence,

You know all about History and English and French and everything else.  What good will Trigonometry do you?

But this discussion, also, results with more insecurity upon Gene's part as he hears Finny talk of studying and becoming "head of the class."  His eyes snap in envy from the textbook to Finny: 

But what did go on in his mind?  'If I was the head of the class and won that prize, then we would be even...'

Now, Gene becomes worried that Finny will try to surpass him intellectually, as well.  This insecurity is reinforced by the incident in which he and Finny are in the library, studying for a French examination, but Finny passes nonsensical notes and "I didn't get any work done."  After Gene returns to his room, Finny enters, announcing that Leper has decided to jump this night, so Gene must attend.  Gene, in his insecurity, suspects ulterior motives on Finny's part:

Finny had put him [Leper] up to it, to finish me for good on the exam.

When Gene expresses this thought, Finny is surprised.  He tells Gene he is intelligent:

Listen, I could study forever and I'd never bread C.  But it's different for you, you're good. you rally are.  If I had a brain like that, I'd--I'd have my head cut open so people could look at it....

And, Gene becomes ashamed of his insecurity:

He had never been jealous of me for a second.  Now I knew that there never was and never could have been any rivalry between us.  I was not of the same quality as he.

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The beginning of Chapter 4, when Finny and Gene wake up on the beach together and Gene returns late to school unable to revise for a test, Gene says:

I flunked it; I knew I was going to as soon as I looked at the test problems. It was the first test I had ever flunked.

Later, when Gene complains to Finny about it, Finny responds dismissively:

"Don't give me that line. Nobody at Devon has ever been surer of graduating than you are. You aren't working for that. You want to be head of the class, valedictorian...."

These quotes then show how intelligent Gene is - firstly that this is the first test he has ever flunked, and secondly, as Finny correctly guesses, he isn't working hard just to graduate - he wants to be head of the class, which means he has to be intelligent to be able to realistically aim for such a goal.

The very end of Chapter 3 when they are at the beach shows how insecure Gene is in his friendship with Finny. After Finny has declared that Gene is his "best pal", Gene ponders:

It was a courageous thing to say. Exposing a sincer emotion nakedly like that at the Devon School was the next thing to suicide. I should have told him then that he was my best friend also and rounded off what he had said. I started to; I nearly did. But something held me back. Perhaps I was stopped by that level of feeling, deeper than thought, which contained the truth.

Here we have a open reference to the "truth" of the hatred and jealousy that Gene feels towards Finny. Finny makes him insecure and challenges him - just look how he obeys Finny in so many things even though every bone in his body is crying out not to do it - and it is this insecurity in himself that leads Gene to harbour anger and jealousy against Finny. Even though he tries to express his friendship and emotion to Finny, he is unable too - indicating his true feelings.

We’ve answered 317,692 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question