In "A Separate Peace", what does it symbolize when Finny opens the carnival by burning a copy of "The Iliad"?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, the reader should understand that Finny dearly loves attention, so when he snatches up the copy of The Iliad to light it on fire, the reader can view the moment as being emblematic of all of Finny's escapades in which his purpose is to be fun, but also to be recognized.

The Iliad also makes a symbolic connection with its Greek historical background; this text is all about the glories and deprivations of war.  When Finny claims that the boys cannot start the Carnival without a "sacred fire from Olympus," he chooses The Iliad from among the prizes to be the 'sacrificial lamb' that gets torched.  Finny's selection is meaningful though; by burning The Iliad, an epic war story, he also effectively protests the current war (World War II) that so many of the other boys long to join.

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A Separate Peace

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