Gene realizes in Chapter 2 of A Separate Peace by John Knowles that "Phineas was the essence of this careless peace," the reminder of what peace is like with the threat of war hovering over the adults. Only sixteen, Finny and the other boys his age are registered with no draft board; they have not been tagged as defective in any way.
Absolutely amazed at Finny's ability to thwart authority, he witnesses the candor and innocence of Phineas as he displays a "calm ignorance of the rules with a winning urge to be good" that inevitability wins over authority. As he boldly tells Mr. Prud'homme, who in spite of himself is pleased, that the real reason they have missed so many meals is the fact that they had to jump out of the tree, an act that is far more grievous than missing a meal. But, the glib Phineas rambles on jovially about their going to be seventeen and they can soon join the army, so Mr. Prud'homme forgives the youths in their last chances at freedom.