How are Gene and Finny united after he jumps from the tree in Chapter 1?"A Separate Peace" by John Knowles

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Under the influence of Phineas in Chapter 1 of "A Separate Peace,"  Gene removes his clothes as though he were "throwing [his] life away" and jumps off the tree limb. When Leper becomes dull and spiritless after Gene and Finny jump, Finny tells Gene, "It's you, pal."  Gene describes this scene as "We were the best of friends at that moment."

Finny claims their unity by stating that Gene became "good" because he had shamed him into jumping. Gene protests, but Finny declares that he did, indeed, shame him:

I'm good for you that way.  You have a tendency to back away from things otherwise.

As the boys traverse the grounds and return to school, the boys wrestle.  This suggests the conflict between the boys that comes as the story develop.  Finny's influence in Gene's life is in the nature of interference with natural impulses of conformity; Finny makes Gene do the unexpected, such as jumping from the tree.  They are united in their impulses, and their reactionary behavior.  However, Gene can only be rebellious against authority when Finny is present to offer moral support. For, only Finny can respond to the moment; Gene needs consistency and continuity in his life.


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A Separate Peace

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