Discuss the relationship between codependency and identity in A Separate Peace and how these concepts help define the relationship between Gene and Finny.

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Knowles' novel A Separate Peace addresses the ideas of identity and codependency through the relationship of Gene and Finny.  Gene is co-dependent on Finny, the easy going, well-liked student at Devon, and as the novel progresses, Gene realizes that he has grown weary of his sidekick status.  Gene wants more for himself and struggles to invent himself as a young man and a student.  Naturally gifted academically, Gene also wants Finny's easy athleticism.  Gene envies Finny's natural charisma, his ability to "combine a calm ignorance of the rules with a winning urge to be good" (16).  Ultimately, Gene's jealousy of Finny causes him to lash out and cause his friend's accident; even then, it is Finny and his natural goodness that help Gene define himself.  In this sense, Gene is co-dependent upon Finny, because Gene fails to see his admirable qualities in himself; it is his own struggle for identity that draws him to Finny.  Finny sees the best in Gene, even when Gene cannot, and it is Finny's insistent forgiveness that day in the infirmary that finally opens Gene's eyes to his own potential for good.

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A Separate Peace

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