What does it mean "to lose face with Phineas", and what was Finny's commandment with regards to sports in A Separate Peace?These questions are from chapter 3 of A Separate Peace.

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Finny has a charismatic power over Gene, which Gene cannot quite figure out.  As a "Charter Member" of the "Super Suicide Society", a club of sorts created by Finny, Gene and Finny must open every meeting by jumping from a certain tall tree into the river.  Gene is not comfortable doing this because it is dangerous, yet he always jumps - "otherwise, (he) would have lost face with Phineas, and that would have been unthinkable".  To "lose face" with Finny would be to lose his respect, and even though Gene cannot logically understand why Finny's respect is so important to him, it somehow is, and he continues to jump from the tree despite his better judgment.

Finny's commandment with regards to sports is, "You always win at sports".  In Finny's mind, "everyone always won at sports...(he) never permitted himself to realize that when you won they lost.  that would have destroyed the perfect beauty which was sport. Nothing bad ever happened in sports; they were the absolute good".  Gene is aware that Finny's concept of sport actually does not make sense, but finds himself going along with his friend's mandates anyway.  As in the situation with the Super Suicide Club, and in a haunting parallel with historical situations where people are mesmerized by charismatic leaders of questionable judgment or integrity, Finny has the unfathomable power to get people to follow him without understanding why (Chapter 3).

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A Separate Peace

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