Why is it significant that Finny excels at sports while Gene shines in academics?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Finny's success in athletics is juxtaposed in the story with Gene's academics. This juxtaposition emphasizes Gene's quiet, studious nature, often very lacking in confidence, with that of Finny, who seems supremely confident in everything he does. He is robust, physically active, and outgoing, basically everything Gene is not. This difference in interests and personality creates the tension that really drives the whole book, though it becomes clear that Finny doesn't really share in that tension, at least not as much as Gene. Ultimately, they are two very different people, and Gene envies the ease with which Finny goes about his life, especially his athletic prowess.