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A Separate Peace

by John Knowles
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Comment on the relationship between Gene and Finny during the decathlon. How does Gene feel about being ordered around by Finny during this stage?

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Key to understanding this part of the novel is focussing on the way that Finny, through his sheer charisma and imagination, is able to "invent" or "create" a separate world apart from the grim realities of the war which affects the world of Devon so strongly. This section of the novel comes at the end of Chapter 9, as part of the Winter Carnival that Phinny has organised. There isn't a direct order that is given by Finny to Gene in this section, rather, Finny just declares what will happen:

"Now we are going to have thew Decathlon. Quiet everybody, our Olympic candidate Gene Forrester, is now going to qualify"...

Gene however does go on to comment: wasn't cider which made me in this moment champion of everything he ordered, to run as though I were the abstraction of speed, to walk the half-circle of statues on my hands... it was this liberation we had torn from the gray encroachments of 1943, the escape we had concocted, this afternoon of momentary, illusory, special and separate peace.

Thus although Gene is obviously ordered around to do the different events by Finny, he does not resent this. Rather he is intoxicated - not by the cider they have drunk, but by the feeling of freedom and peace that they have created thanks to Finny. This obviously ties in with a key theme of the novel - the innocence and naivety represented in Finny with his refusal to admit that a war is happening and his determination to create an "illusory, special and separate peace" through his actions which are strong enough to take the boys away from the reality of their situation.

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