Can you help me find two epiphanies in Chapter Five of A Separate Peace? 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In literary terms, an epiphany is a moment in a character's life when there is a sudden enlightenment, or realization and insight. In Chapter Five of John Knowles A Separate Piece, Gene experiences two such moments of insight into his own character.

After Gene, in a moment of inexcusable envy, has jounced the limb "with unthinking sureness" and Finny has fallen, suffering a terrible injury to his leg, an injury that will prevent him from ever participating in sports again, Gene's conscience begins to bother him, especially when he learns the extent of Finny's debilitation.

I burst out crying into my hands. I cried for Phineas and for myself and for this doctor who believed in facing things. Most of all I cried because of kindness which I had not expected.

When Gene visits Phineas, Gene is told that Finny had "a feeling" that Gene jounced the limb, but he apologizes, "I'm sorry about that feeling I had." Gene is speechless as he realizes that in Finny's noble mind, he should not accuse a friend based only upon "a feeling."

  • It is here that Gene experiences his first epiphany: "And I thought we were competitors! I wanted to cry." [Here Gene realizes that Finny has far more integrity than he: "He would have told me the truth."]

Further in the chapter, during a vacation, Gene visits Finny at his home. There he confesses to Finny that he caused the accident: "I deliberately jounced the limb." But Finny refuses to believe Gene; in fact, he angrily tells Gene, "I'll kill you if you don't shut up." Finny orders Gene to go away.

  • It is at this point that Gene has his second epiphany: "It struck me then that I was injuring him again. I occurred to me that this could be an even deeper injury than what I had done before. I would have to back out of it. I would have to disown it....it was worse for him to know it." [Here Gene realizes that for Finny to know that his friend Gene has had such antipathy and envy that he would try to hurt him is too horrible for Finny to accept.]
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