What is Brinker's purpose in getting all of the facts from Finny's accident in Chapter 11?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator
  • In Chapter 11 of A Separate Peace, Brinker Hadley seeks the facts of the circumstances surrounding Finny's accident because he suspects Gene Forrester of foul play. 

Gene returns to Devon after having visited Leper who has, in his words, "escaped" from the Army because he was going to be given a Section Eight—a discharge because of his mental condition, a discharge that would prevent Leper from being hired. While Gene visits Leper, they walk across the snow-covered fields in Vermont, and Leper opens up to Gene, describing his recent experiences which have forced him to admit much to himself, including the fact, he says, that Gene is not the person he thought him to be. He tells Gene,

"You always were a lord of the manor, weren't you? A swell guy, except when the chips were down. You always were a savage underneath. I always knew that only I never admitted it. But in the last few weeks....I admitted a lot to myself."

When Gene jumps up, enraged, Leper laughs, "Like that time you crippled him for life." Gene kicks over the chair in which Leper is sitting; however, Leper continues to laugh and repeats, "...always were a savage underneath."

Leper is not the only one who suspects Gene of being "a savage." One day while recruiters are at the school, Brinker approaches Gene, telling him to stop pitying Phineas because doing so will harm Finny. He also tells Gene that he knows that he was present when Finny had his accident, "....it wouldn't do you any harm, you know, if everything about Finny's accident was cleared up and forgotten." Gene asks him what he means, but the sly Brinker replies, "I don't know...nobody knows....unless you know."

Later, Gene talks with Finny, who tells Gene he finds that he must believe Gene. And he now admits that there is a real war going on. Shortly after this, Brinker and three supporters come into Gene and Phineas's room, saying "We're taking you out." Gene and Phineas are led into the First Building where ten of the members of the senior class sit in robes on a raised platform with a balustrade before them, much as the jury sits in a courtroom. Gene hears such words as "inquiry" and "the country demands."

Brinker calls on Gene to sit in a chair as though he were a witness in court, and tells Finny, "Tonight we are investigating you....Investigating Finny's accident." He tells him that it is important to get the accident "out in the open." Brinker then asks Finny, "Have you ever thought that you didn't just fall out of that tree?" Finny turns to Gene to ask if he were not at the bottom of the tree. But another voice asks Gene if he were not in the tree that night, as well. Still another voice asks if Leper was there; someone else replies affirmatively that Leper was, in fact, there. When the boys learn that Leper is on campus, a couple of them run out to find him; soon they return with him. Leper testifies that one boy was at the base of the tree, the other on the branch. Then one moved first and disturbed the other's balance. But, Leper refuses to divulge who moved first or second: "I know when I have information that might be dangerous."

By this time, Phineas has risen from his chair, saying, "I don't care." Brinker stops him: "Wait a minute! We haven't gotten all the facts." 

He whirled as though being attacked. "You get all the facts!" [Finny cries] "You collect every fact there is in the world!"

Finny flees and rushes down the marble stairs. His cane slips and he crashes tragically down these white marble stairs.

Brinker, with the testimony of Leper, has fairly well established that Gene has been involved in shaking the branch, which caused Finny to lose his balance and fall, breaking his leg. Finny, who has come to think of Gene as an extension of himself, cannot bear this truth and rushes from the Assembly Hall only to suffer a devastating injury.

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A Separate Peace

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