How would you describe Finny and Gene's relationship in A Separate Peace?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In an article from Studies in Short Fiction, Ronald Weber writes,

It is Phineas's innocence that Gene cannot endure. As long as he can believe Phineas shares his enmity, he can find relief, but with this assurance gone, he stands condemned before himself and must strike out against his tormentor.

Indeed, Phineas is one of life's true Innocents. He is without an pettiness, any jealousies, any uncharitable thought; in short, he has the heart of a young child, breaking rules not to be defiant, but simply for the enjoyment of freedom. On the other hand, Gene comes to Devon School with several personal issues. For one thing, he is obviously insecure; therefore, he interprets the motivations of Finny always in the wrong way. He believes that Finny has ulterior motives for his actions: 

  • He suspects Finny of preventing him from making good grades by taking him away from his studies.
  • He develops insecurities and feelings of inadequacy as he measures himself against Finny and, thus, envies him.
  • He retaliates against Finny by jostling the limb while Finny is on it during the Secret Suicide Society jumps.

After World War II is waged, Gene begins to realize that he has made introspective judgments because he has been isolated from the realities of the world. In Chapter 13, he concludes,

...I was stopped by that level of feeling, deeper than thought, which contains the truth....

Then, too, he understands that this same subjectivity of feeling on a broader scale causes bigger wars: 

....Because it seemed clear that wars were not made by generations and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart.

Phineas has always been without this human "ignorance" of the human heart, while Gene has been filled with it, making Finny his enemy when the evil, his petty jealousies, was within him. 

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nimodahir's profile pic

nimodahir | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

finny has a heart of gold he is well behaved and likes all things good, genes is insecure and afraid of what the world might see

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