What are some eye-opening quotes about Finny in A Separate Peace by John Knowles?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"Eye-opening" is a high standard, but here are some quotes about Finny from A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Finny and Gene are the two main characters in the novel, and they are roommates at Devon school. The country is at war, and it will not be long before these two will be called on te serve. Until then, they are determined just to live their lives. Finny is especially interested in being himself despite the war and restrictions raging around him. 

First of all, Finny has a unique moral and ethical code, and he adheres to it religiously.

Finny’s life was ruled by inspiration and anarchy, and so he prized a set of rules. His own, not those imposed on him by other people.

While he consistently breaks and flouts the rules at Devon and then lies about it, he is adamant that one must, for example, 

never say you are five feet nine when you are five feet eight and a half.

Second, Finny loves unconditionally, and, unlike so many of the other boys at Devon, he is not afraid to show it. He believes that

[w]hen you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love.

Unfortunately this causes Finny a lot of heartbreak in this novel, but even knowing how things turn out for him in the end, it is likely that Finny would not have changed how he loved. That is just Finny's way.

Finally, Finny sees the world in a way that no one else does. Gene says,

Phineas created an atmosphere, a way of sizing up the world with erratic and entirely personal reservations, letting its rocklike facts sift through and be accepted only a little at a time, only as much as he could assimilate without a sense of chaos and loss.

The realities of war, for example do not bother Finny, for he only accepts the bits he likes and is able to completely ignore (forget) the rest. This is the reason he says--and believes--that the war was created by a room full of "fat old men." He embraces the truths he wants to believe and conveniently ignores everything else. This might be considered a gift in a time of war, but it certainly sets Finny apart from most boys at Devon--from everyone, really.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial