How does John Knowles depict Phineas as "too good to be true" or "too good to be a mere mortal" in A Separate Peace?  

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A Separate Peace is written from Gene Forrester's (a character's) point of view. Any depiction of Phineas is described through his jealous, and sometimes sarcastic, filter. That being said, Phineas is portrayed almost as a Christ-like figure because he seems so completely perfect at times, yet he becomes a victim who is broken both physically and mentally and eventually dies an early death. As a result, Finny is described as immortal or "too good to be true" at times.

Phineas as a Savior:

"If Finny hadn't come up right behind me. . . if he hadn't been there . . . I could have fallen on the bank and broken my back! If I had fallen awkwardly enough I could have been killed. Finny had practically saved my life" (32).

Phineas is a strong, competitive athlete, and always a winner. The following passage describes him after playing Blitzball, a game he just so happened to have made up:

". . . after some of these plays I would notice him chuckling quietly to himself, in a kind of happy disbelief. In such a nonstop game he also had the natural advantage of a flow of energy which I never saw interrupted. I never saw him tired, never really winded, never overcharged and never restless. . . Phineas always had a steady and formidable flow of usable energy" (39-40).

Phineas is also humble because he breaks the school swim record with only Gene looking on, but he makes him promise not to tell anyone. For Phineas, it seemed easy--not much of a challenge at all--so there's no reason to brag about it. Gene describes it as follows:

"To keep silent about this amazing happening deepened the shock for me. It made Finny seem too unusual for--not friendship, but too unusual for rivalry" (45).

Another god-like quality that Phineas possesses is that of forgiveness. He forgave Gene for jouncing him in the tree that one summer day, even before the mock trial half a year after the incident. Gene wanted to make sure his apology sunk in, though, when Finny's broke his leg a second time. Finny's answer to Gene's apology is beautiful:

"He was nodding his head, his jaw tightening and his eyes closed on the tears. 'I believe you. It's okay because I understand and I believe you. You've already shown me and I believe you" (191).

Sadly, Finny dies during surgery due to some bone marrow getting into the blood and then stopping the heart. After all of the depictions of Finny being invincible, it sure is tragic that it had to end that way for him.

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