The first time I read John Knowles' A Separate Peace, I felt sorry for both Gene and Finny when I started reading chapter six. I understood why they were full of angst (although I didn't use that word years ago when I first read the book), and why Gene was obsessed with Finny and Finny was obsessed with illusion.
The pomp and circumstance and the emphasis on maintaining the status quo and the self-importance of the school would mess me up, too. The masters with their "worn expressions" and Mr Pike's "hopeless" face; the "same hymns," the "same sermon," the "same announcements": these are what make men out of boys? How typical of an institution to open the year with a sermon on what you owe to it! The tediousness of it all!
Now when I reread the work I usually just think about the fact that I tend to like Leper more than either Gene or Finny!
In the book A Separate Peace Finny has had his leg repaired but knows it will not be the same. He has to face life very differently now. Brinker has moved into Leper's room and jokes with Gene that he has the room to himself because of his roommates injury. He also makes some joking allegations about Gene's guilt towards Finny. While they are in the basement it is hard to like Gene very much. He is in the hot seat for having made Finny fall, but he jokes his way out of it.
"I had to take part in this, or risk losing control completely."(89)
Finny gained my sympathy after he was injured. Like many readers I had begun to realize that he had been handed a raw deal in life. He had been a good and outgoing person who was trusting. He was wounded by the person whom he trusted most. I liked him all the more because he had chosen not to believe that someone he cared about could have done something that had caused him to be severely injured.
In these two chapters the reader begins to question who Gene really has become. Gene is going to shovel some snow out for the railroad and will get paid for it. Leper sees him and shares that he will be going into the military.
At the end Finny returns and Gene is very happy. He begins to realize how much he and Finny are a part of one another.
"Everything that had happened throughout the day faded like that first false snowfall of the winter, Phineas was back."(102)