Is Gene redeemed in the end?
At the end of John Knowles' novel A Separate Peace, Gene Forrester finds peace and redemption in the form of forgiveness from his friend Phineas.
Mired in self-blame, jealousy, and regret, Gene goes to meet Finny in the infirmary "in the grip of a kind of fatal exhilaration" (180). His self-recriminations at having caused Finny's accident has made him fearful of facing his friend, , and the situation is awkward at best.
Finny feels incredibly frustrated about not being able to join the war, but Gene reassures him that he "wouldn't be any good in the war, even if nothing had happened to your leg" (182); then he goes on to explain that Finny's good heart and friendly spirit would not fit into the battle field. It is this moment in the novel that Finny realizes and hopes for the goodness in Gene as well and forgives him for causing the accident.
"It was just some kind of blind impulse you had in the tree there, you didn't know what you were doing. Was that it?" (183)
Whether Finny is being naive about Gene's role or actively choosing to let Gene know that he does not blame him, the effect is the same. Phineas' act of forgiveness in this moment could have vindicated Gene, releasing him from his guilt. However, Gene questions Finny, asking him how he could possibly believe that, when he did not even believe that.
Finally, the two friends are being direct and honest with each other, and Finny again affirms his belief in Gene's inherent goodness, that "it wasn't some kind of hate...it wasn't anything personal" (183). Finny believes in Gene, even when his friend does not.
Yes, Gene is redeemed in the end of the novel, not really through his own actions, but the steadfast belief and friendship of Phineas.