A Separate Peace by John Knowles

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Chapter 4 Summary

When Gene awakens on the beach the next morning, he realizes that his trigonometry test is going to begin in just a few hours. Finny, however, calculates that there is time for a short swim before leaving, so the boys arrive back at Devon just in time for Gene's test, which he fails. In the afternoon, Finny arranges for the group to play a game of blitzball, and right after dinner, there is a meeting of the Super Suicide Society. That night, as Gene tries desperately to catch up on the work in which he has been falling behind, Finny asks him why he always works so hard, commenting that he must be vying to graduate at the head of the class so that he will be able to make a speech on Graduation Day. Finny's words bring Gene to the stunning realization that his friend is trying to sabotage his efforts to get good grades, in a twisted scheme to come out on top in their rivalry. In trying to understand Finny's motivation, Gene notes that Phineas is a poor student, but he is "without question the best athlete" in the school. Gene, on the other hand, is an excellent student and a pretty fair athlete as well. If Gene should graduate at the top of the class, he will have won the competition between the two of them, something Finny is obviously trying to prevent. Feeling completely betrayed, Gene vows to keep up his guard against Finny's perceived duplicity, but as the summer wanes, his feelings of animosity start to fade, and he begins to forget "whom (he) hate(s) and who hate(s) (him)."

(The entire section is 528 words.)