What convinces Finny that Gene did not mean to hurt him in chapter 12?

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Throughout the story, Gene is shown to be a more passive, reserved individual than Finny, which lends to his credence in the end of the novel. Gene has grown concerned that Finny is trying to usurp his position as the most intellectual student in their school by distracting him from his studies with their daring pursuits. So, he sabotages Finny, causing him to fall.

Finny, succumbing to eventual death, reaches out for understanding, as he refuses to believe that Gene did something so cruel intentionally. Gene relents and says that something "just came over him" and that he had no idea why he did it, placating Finny and calming his mind. This gives Finny some peace and confidence in their friendship prior to his demise, which was something he was desperately clinging to.

Gene's initial confession, while it helped somewhat to quell his own guilt, made Finny feel all the worse as he was progressively getting closer to death. In this final moment, Finny chooses denial in order to end his life with a friend instead of a foe.

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In their final moments together before he dies, it is Finny himself who manages to find a way to accept Gene's betrayal. After breaking down, Finny cries and struggles to find a way to understand what has happened to him. He says to Gene:

It was just some kind of blind impulse you had in the tree there, you didn't know what you were doing. Was that it?

Gene replies instantly, "Yes, yes, that was it. Oh that was it . . . ." Finny continues to convince himself:

I think I can believe that. I've gotten awfully mad sometimes and almost forgotten what I was doing. I think I believe you, I think I can believe that. Then that was it. Something just seized you. It wasn't anything you really felt against me, it wasn't some kind of hate you've felt all along. It wasn't anything personal.

In other words, Finny convinces himself that Gene never meant to hurt him because that is what he must believe.



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