A Separate Peace by John Knowles

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Is Gene responsible for Finny's death in John Knowles's A Separate Peace? Please explain why or why not.    

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Gene is indirectly responsible for Finny's tragic death and acknowledges his role at the end of the story. Although Finny is a completely innocent, selfless individual, Gene is extremely insecure and misinterprets Finny's intentions by believing that Finny has ulterior motives for undermining his academic success. Gene begins to view Finny as his enemy and resents Finny for making him jump into the Devon River as part of the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session's daily ritual. Toward the end of chapter 4, Finny suggests that Gene jump from the tree limb in tandem, and Gene follows Finny up the tree. Gene describes his actions on the branch of the tree by saying:

Holding firmly to the trunk, I took a step toward him, and then my knees bent and I jounced the limb. Finny, his balance gone, swung his head around to look at me for an instant with extreme interest, and then he tumbled sideways, broke through the little branches below and hit the bank with a sickening, unnatural thud....

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