In "A Separate Peace" what symbolic role does Finny's death play in the story?

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I think the best way to answer this question is to figure out what Finny's life is symbolic of. Finny is a great character, and he could symbolize so many different things. He could be symbolic of boundless youth and energy.

At dawn, all day long, and at midnight, Phineas always had a steady and formidable flow of usable energy.

He could be symbolic of innocence and purity. He could even be symbolic of what personified altruism looks like. Finny simply wants to be the best that he can be, and he wants what is best for everybody around him. It's why he doesn't understand the concept of winners and losers.

Finny never permitted himself to realize that when you won they lost.

To Finny, as long as you play the game, you are as much of a winner as anybody else. Finny is essentially a being that exists to love the world around him and to love all of the people around him as well. When he dies, all of that is lost. The aura of goodness, innocence, and purity that he cast over all of his friends at Devon is completely lost. Finny as a person is dead, and his death took away all of the things that he symbolically represented in his life.

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Finny was a unique character who possessed a special quality of happiness and peace that many other characters strived to have, and failed.  Genes states of Finny,

"He possessed an extra vigor, a heightened confidence in himself, a serene capacity for affection which saved him...nothing...had broken his harmonious and natural unity."

Before this, Gene explained that most people came up against something in their lives that tested them to the max, and broke them, "and they were not the same again."  For most characters in this story, it was the war.  Once they realized that there was "this overwhelmingly hostile thing in the world with them," they broke, changing forever.  However, Finny didn't.  He remained himself.  So, at last, Gene states, he broke Finny.  So when Finny dies, it symbolizes how nothing is invincible; each of us will be changed by something in the world around us-a war, a trial, even a jealous friend-and we will have to surrender our peace to that change.  It is a dismal ending; Finny represented the ability to stay happy and separate from the brutal world around us, and when he dies, the last bit of peace fled with him.  Finny symbolized peace, harmony and innocence; his death symbolized the departure of that.  It is a "growing up", a surrender to the world, and the conquest of reality over innocence.

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