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A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

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What does Gene do when Quackenbush accuses him of being maimed and why? Could Gene be considered maimed?

Quick answer:

Gene is extremely sensitive about the term "maimed," especially when used to describe Finny, and he reacts with anger whenever it is used. Gene's behavior reveals that he is still emotionally wounded by his involvement in Finny's accident and still feels guilty about it.

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In chapter six, all of the boys at Devon are required to participate in a sport during the term and Gene signs up to be the assistant manager of the crew, which is a difficult, "nonentity" position usually filled by boys who are injured or physically handicapped. Gene mentions that he signed up for the position to work like an automaton and desires to be left alone. Unfortunately, the crew manager, Cliff Quackenbush, dislikes Gene and is determined to give him a difficult time. After Cliff Quackenbush critizes Gene for becoming an assistant manager his senior year, he tells Gene to go to hell before saying, "Listen you maimed son-of-a-bitch…" (Knowles, 39). Gene responds by punching Quackenbush directly in the face and the two begin to fight before falling into the Naguamsett River. Gene is motivated to strike Quackenbush because he is filled with extreme guilt and anger stemming from Finny's accident, which left his best friend maimed. Gene is still sensitive and guilt-ridden regarding his involvement in Finny's injury and reacts with anger whenever Quackenbush uses the term "maimed," which he associates with Finny's condition. In a sense, Gene is emotionally maimed because he is conflicted, guilty, and unsure of himself. Gene has irrecovably changed since Finny's injury and is have difficulty forgiving himself. His insecurities and anxiety resulting from his traumatic experience has figuratively "maimed" him.

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This occurs when Gene is securing his role as the Assistant Crew Manager. This is not an honorable, but a mocking position for a senior. Gene starts a fight with him. The two end up wrestling through the fight falling into the river.

I think Gene's purpose for responding this way is that he has an over-sensitivity to the word maimed because of it's significance about what he knows he's done to Finny. To have crippled someone else and that someone not knowing is maiming Gene from the inside out.

Gene's spirit has been crippled at the loss of Finny's ability to be himself. Gene is crippled by guilt. Gene is crippled by untruth.

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