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A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

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Student Question

In A Separate Peace, what do three specific competitions reveal about the boys' friendship?

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In John Knowles' A Separate Peace, Gene and Phineas are best friends who seem to have a friendly, unspoken competition between them. As many teenagers do, they compare themselves in different aspects of life to see how they measure up to each other. Gene tends to compare himself to Phineas athletically and socially. Phineas is charming with his peers as well as with adults. Phineas is also a fast runner and swimmer. To top off the list, Phineas is creative and plans fun activities for people to get involved with, such as "Blitzball," and jumping into the river from a large tree. Gene sees all of these talents in Phineas and searches himself to see what gifts he may have. Then, Gene discovers that his talents mostly lie in academics. He even believes that Phineas might even be a little jealous of Gene for getting good grades and that is where Gene finds his niche. The friendly competition is normal and universal to anyone's life. Even though they feel jealous at times, or even angry, Gene and Phineas are loyal to each other, and like brothers, they wouldn't betray each other for anything. Luckily, Gene and Finny's competition is resolved before Finny passes away and there's some closure to it as they mature throughout the year at Devon school.

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