In John Knowles's "A Separate Peace," Finny is not just a student at Devon, he is a force, a flight of fancy. Finny represents the delightful impetuosity of youth, the imagination that denies reality, the belief in the ideal, the blythe spirit. As James Ellis remarks,
Because of his ability to admit only as much of the ugliness of life that he could assimilate, Phineas is unique. (enotes)
Because Finny is the embodiment of that which has not been corrupted by "the evil that men do" in wars and the secular world, the teachers have found him refreshing, the students inspiring. Finny has done things just to have done them; there is no ulterior motive. When he breaks the school record in swimming with no preparation, for instance, Finny just does this because he can.
As a type of allegorical hero, Finny gives the students and faculty something to believe in that is not...
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