In the beginning of "A Separate Peace", what kind of person does Gene want to be? Also what is his dual attitude toward Finny?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gene wants to be Finny; that's the kind of person that Gene wants to be.  Throughout the book, there are clues that indicate his desire to be more like Finny.  After Finny's accident, Gene is supposed to get some clothes for Finny.  He stands in the room and actually puts Finny's famous pink shirt on.  He is oddly comforted to feel like he is not himself for a while, and to step into Finny's shoes.  He wants Finny's amiable nature, his leadership, his popularity, his ability to get out of anything.  So, Gene wants to be like Finny, even if he won't directly admit it.

This ties directly into his dual attitude towards Finny; on the one hand, he wants to be just like Finny, and on the other hand, he resents Finny for being so liked and capable of getting away with so much.  He secretly loathes Finny and attaches him with all sorts of malevolent intentions; he thinks Finny is undermining him in his studies, getting him out of class to go play just so that he will fail.  He gets mad at Finny for saving him on the tree, saying that he wouldn't have been on that tree in the first place if it wasn't for Finny.  But then on the flip side, he puts Finny's clothes on, envies him, wants to be like him, and considers him to be a good friend.  So, he has a very dual attitude in the fact that he is envious and hateful, and then adoring and wanting to emulate him.

I hope that helps a bit; good luck!

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gene wants to fit in at Devon School.  He is the typical outcast in a story of teenage angst.  He is from the South and does not have the aristocratic backing that the other boys have. In essence, he wants to be just like Finny who is popular, exuberant, and charming.

Gene's internal conflict with not being at peace with himself and who he truly is manifests itself in his relationship with Finny.  Thus, his dual attitude toward his "friend."  After Finny practically forces Gene to jump from the tree the first time, Gene thinks,

"What was I doing here anyway?  Why did I let Finny talk me into stupid things like this? Was he getting some kind of hold on me?" (17)

At the same time Gene admires Finny's laid-back approach to academics and the ease with which he athletically accomplishes whatever he sets his mind to do, he hates himself, and therefore, Finny because he does not possess Finny's skills or personality traits.

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A Separate Peace

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