A Separate Peace Questions and Answers
by John Knowles

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In A Separate Peace by John Knowles, why does Gene not mention Finny after Finny's death?

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After Finny's funeral in chapter 12, life continues in chapter 13 of A Separate Peace. Gene's class is graduating from Devon and preparing to enter the war effort. Meanwhile, in June, military units move onto the campus to set up sewing machines for the purpose of sewing parachutes together. Brinker and Gene talk about the war and what they are witnessing with great interest. Brinker turns the talk to Leper's failed enlistment and that he would have done better to be stationed here sewing parachutes. Gene feels uncomfortable talking about Leper and says, "Why talk about something you can't do anything about?" (197). This must be Gene's philosophy at this point in his life. He feels powerless to change anything, especially with people over whom he has no control; therefore, why discuss it?

Gene's philosophy seems to carry over to what happened to his best friend, Phineas. He doesn't see any reason to talk about Finny after he's gone because there's nothing more he can do about it. In a way, this is also respectful. Stressing over Finny's death, something that he can't change, allows the memory of his friend to be kept sacred and at peace. Gene elaborates as follows:

"I never talked about Phineas and neither did anyone else; he was, however, present in every moment of every day . . . Finny had a vitality which could not be quenched so suddenly . . . That was why I couldn't say anything or listen to anything about him, because he endured so forcefully that what I had to say would have seemed crazy to anyone else—I could not use the past tense" (202).

For Gene, it seems as though Phineas was bigger than life when he was alive, so talking about him would not do him justice. Only Finny could do himself justice and he is gone now. Furthermore, talking about Finny in the past solidifies the realization that he is gone for good; however, thinking about him in his heart, as though he were always present, keeps his memory going. Gene goes on to say that Phineas taught him how to live in the moment as well. Finny would tackle the present with all the energy of his heart and personality. Gene also realizes that no one else that he ever knew could live in the moment as well as Phineas, so Gene decides to honor him by doing the same.

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Gene actually does mention Finny to the reader after his death, if not to anyone else in the novel. However, Gene does mention in the novel that he doesn't ever cry for Finny, and that he doesn't kill anyone in World War II because he killed his "enemy" at the Devon school. He mentions in the final paragraphs that Finny was the only one who never hated anyone, that he was the only one who never stood guard, believing he was about to be "attacked." Thus, Finny is far more pure than Gene took him for. Gene also mentions about halfway through the novel that his purpose from the start was to "become a part of Phineas." At the end of the novel, Gene believes that he has actually become Finny incarnate. Finny, and all of the qualities Gene took for granted in him, or mistook for bad qualities, now inhabit Gene.