Illustration of two pairs of legs standing on the branch of a large tree

A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

Start Free Trial

What are 3 ways Gene and Phineas are alike and 3 ways they are different in A Separate Peace?

Expert Answers

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

Similarities: Gene and Finny are both well-liked and popular at Devon. The other boys seem to gravitate towards Finny, and Gene becomes one of the school's most popular, successful members following Finny's injury. Both boys are athletic and enjoy participating in sports. Even though Finny is a superior athlete, Gene also has a fair amount of athletic ability. Both boys come from relatively wealthy families. Devon is a prestigious, exclusive boarding school, and both Gene and Finny's families can afford to send them there.

Differences: Finny is an innocent, naive young man who would never purposely harm anyone. In contrast, Gene allows his insecurities to negatively influence his decision to harm Finny. Finny is also extremely confident and self-assured. Other than academic activities, Finny naturally succeeds at everything he does. In contrast, Gene has to work hard to become academically successful, and nothing comes naturally to him. Finny is also a rule-breaker and an adventurous individual. Gene is a rule-follower and is forced to join Finny on each of his adventures against his will.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Similarities: They are both dependent on each other's friendship and support throughout the novel.  They both value each other's strenghts (Gene - intellectualism; Finny - athleticism).  Finally, Gene and Finny are both very competitive with each other.

Differences:  Gene is rather reserved and shy while Finny is very outgoing and charismatic.  Finny has an optimistic attitude about life while Gene is more pessimistic and lets things "get to him".  Finally, Finny is secure in who he is while Gene is not and instead, strives to find his identity or peace by "becoming" Finny.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Differences:  Gene is more scholarly (Gene is near the top of his class, Phineas average in his studies) , Finny is (Phineas) the better athlete, Finny is more self-confident (able to step outside convention and challenge authority)

Similarities:  there are not a great deal of similiarties between the two teenagers.  A similarity lies only in the fact that Gene assumes that his "friend" is as envious of his scholarly abilities as much as he is envious of Finny's athletic prowess.  Of course, they have their ages and school in common, too.  But Gene is severly lacking in self confidence and maturity.  Finny may lack maturity as well, but his is a benevolent immaturity, while Gene's is decidely malevolent. 

"As Ronald Weber writes in an article from Studies in Short Fiction, "It is Phineas's innocence that Gene cannot endure. As long as he can believe Phineas shares his enmity, he can find relief, but with this assurance gone, he stands condemned before himself and must strike out against his tormentor."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team