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A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

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What are examples of Phineas being a good friend to Gene in A Separate Peace?

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Though the balance of power in their friendship clearly favors Phineas, he does demonstrate true friendship towards Gene at several points early in the novel A Separate Peace if the reader agrees that true friendship is defined by trust, affection and honest communication.

Phineas, or Finny, trusts Gene with his breaking of the swimming record in Chapter 3, a feat of sportsmanship he does not want to share with others. This display of strength is not something Finny feels comfortable sharing; he asks Gene to keep it to himself showing his confidence in Gene as a friend.

Later in Chapter 3, Finny tells Gene they are best friends while they break the school rules and go to the beach together. Gene is unsure how to receive this proclamation, but Finny's spontaneous expression of affection is another gesture of friendship.

In Chapter 4, Gene and Finny discuss their academic performance, and Finny simultaneously compliments Gene's talents while jokingly admitting he is envious of them. Though the compliment is buried in Finny's joke about how he would react if Gene earned the honor of valedictorian, his honest respect for Gene motivates the comment, which is a sign of friendship.

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The definition of friendship can be different for everyone. Most people, however, value friends when they are loyal, which is exactly what Phineas is to Gene. Being loyal isn't one of Gene's strongest qualities, but it is for Phineas. Phineas shows his loyalty to Gene by not talking about him behind his back; he shares and keeps secrets with Gene (44); he also saves Gene from falling out of the jumping tree (32); and, he doesn't believe Gene could do anything mean to him (66). Phineas completely believes in Gene's abilities and he is not out to challenge or change Gene (51). Phineas drags Gene into his athletic games (37) and through minor, mischievous schemes, such as sleeping on the beach when they should have been in their dorm room (47), but overall, as Phineas says, Gene is his best friend (48). 

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