What do these quotes, "I was Phineas" (54) and "We reminded them of peace, we boys of sixteen" (16) mean, in regards to friendship, Gene's return to Devon, and Gene? 

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garthman99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The quote ”I was Phineas“ referred to Gene's longing to have the athletic ability and temperament of his friend Finny.”Only Phineas never was afraid, only Phineas never hated anyone." So jealous was Gene of Finny's athleticism that he shook the tree branch that Finny jumped from to go into the river, resulting in Finny breaking his leg. Gene also tried to eclipse Finny's athleticism with his own academic prowess. On Finny’s insistence, Gene tries to replace Finny as the dominant athlete at the school: "Listen, pal, if I can’t play sports, you're going to play them for me and I lost part of myself to him then.”

The quote “We reminded them of peace, we boys of sixteen" is paradoxical.

The only boy that was at peace was Finny and he died in the novel. The novel shows that every individual must fight a personal war if he is to survive. When Finny refused to fight by taking part in the tribunal, he broke his leg once more. Fight and struggle is necessary for personal survival. The boys, despite their youthfulness, were never at peace in the novel.

Read the study guide:
A Separate Peace

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