Gene's relationship with Finny changes frequently through the story, as Gene analyzes and reacts to situations, comments, and actions he observes. Gene considers himself and Finny to be best friends and comrades in all that is good and positive (including stirring up trouble and finding ways to get out of punishment) when the story starts.
As time goes by, Gene's feelings change and he becomes jealous of the ease with which Finny accomplishes so many of the feats that are important in a boys school. Gene is determined to become the top student to place himself on equal footing with Finny, the unquestioned best athlete in the school, and is even more threatened when he realizes Finny doesn't see any competition or threat in Gene's academic accomplishment. Gene's impulsive reaction to this realization is to retaliate by causing Finny to fall out of the tree. In the aftermath, Gene finally comes to understand that there was only the competition that he imagined in his own mind, "that wars were made...by something ignorant in the human heart."