In A Separate Peace, how does Gene perceive Brinker? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In A Separate Peace, Gene finds Brinker "straight" in every sense of the word. But he also detects a certain cynicism in Brinker after Finny's accident, and he begins to perceive Brinker as suspicious of him and a threat.

In Chapter 7 Brinker Hadley walks into Gene's room at the beginning of the term. As Gene describes him, 

His face was all straight lines--eyebrows, mouth, nose, everything--and he carried his six feet of height straight as well. He looked but happened not to be athletic, being too busy with politics, arrangements, and offices.

When the new session begins after the holidays, Brinker insinuates that Gene has known all along that Finny that would not return that term."You fixed it,....You knew all the time. I bet it was all your doing." He later lays a heavy hand on Gene's shoulder, saying, 

"Rest assured....In our free democracy, even fighting for its life, the truth will out."

When Gene suggests that they go to the Butt Room for a smoke, he fails to foresee what can happen. For, the judicial Brinkler, who loves law and order, announces Gene as "your prisoner, gentlemen." But, Gene escapes trial this time. In fact, afterwards, he begins to pattern himself after Brinker somewhat, adopting the same cynicism.

Later, Brinker continues to plague Gene as he breaks in one day and asks Gene if he has talked with Finny about accepting the facts that he will no longer be able to partake in athletics. When Gene asks why he should do this, Brinker intimates that it might serve Gene's best interests. When Gene asks why Brinker has said such things, Brinker insinuates,

"What I mean is it wouldn't do you any harm, you know, if everything about Finny's accident was cleared up and forgotten."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I don't know," he shrugged and chuckled in his best manner, "nobody knows" and his mouth closed in its straight expressionless line, and that was all that was said.

Further, however, Brinker becomes a greater adversary when he and "three cohorts" enter Gene and Finny's room at 10:05 P.M. as though they are FBI agents. "We're taking you out," Brinker says flatly. The inquiry is held in the Assembly Hall, which is used for large lectures, debates, plays, and concerts. With a voice full of authority, Brinker announces that he and the others are investigating Finny's accident. Brinker interrogates Gene as though he is a prosecutor, his voice "full of authority and perfectly under control," Gene narrates. His relentless interrogation of Gene causes Finny great distress, and he emotionally stands and rushes from the Hall, tragically falling down the marble stairs, re-breaking his leg.

Ironically, in Finny's absence, Gene and Brinker become somewhat friendly. Gene, then, considers enlistment after school is out.

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A Separate Peace

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