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A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

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Finny tells Gene that "when you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love." Gene doesn't think this is true. Analyze this conversation and their differing views. Ch 8

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Finny seems to believe the winter loves him, because he loves the winter and believes that when you love something, it must return your affection. Gene's experience of seventeen years find faults with this logic, but he doesn't argue with Finny, because he thinks that Finny's thoughts ought to be true.

This line in the story reflects how Gene acknowledges reason but falls for the allure of Finny's utopian view of the world all the same. He wants Finny's words to be true because they are appealing, but he has not lost sight of reality.

This kind of banter continues toward the end of the chapter with Phineas pretending that there is no second world war: “Do you really think that the United States of America is in a state of war with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan?” In response to this question, Gene's voice "trails off"—he still really wants to believe Finny's version of the truth, which seems a whole lot better than the reality of war, but he is struggling to keep up with him.

Phineas's argument becomes even more convincing with his argument that he is not on a medicinal drug, but in fact, society is, to keep people in their 20s in check: “That's what this whole war story is. A medicinal drug . . . Listen, did you ever hear of the 'Roaring Twenties' . . . and everybody who was young did just what they wanted . . . they didn't like that . . . so for us in the forties they've cooked up this war fake.”

For a moment, Gene is almost taken in by Phineas's version of the truth, and then it even starts to make sense to the reader: “In a way . . . the whole world is on a Funny Farm now. But it's only the fat old men who get the joke.” At the end of the chapter, it seems that Gene has taken on certain qualities of Phineas's perspective by imagining away all his aches and pains while running. He seems nearly sold on the theory that fat old men have invented the war.

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