Illustration of two pairs of legs standing on the branch of a large tree

A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

Start Free Trial

In A Separate Peace, what does Gene discover about Finny's lifestyle after returning to Devon School?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

After Finny's leg has recovered enough for him to return to Devon School, he appears to be different in several ways. First, he seems to be solidly against the war.  Before his injury, he constantly wanted to compete with the seniors who were conditioning for the war and even discussed enlisting early. When he returns and finds out that Brinker and Gene have talked about enlisting, he is flabbergasted and completely against the idea. He makes comments about the futility of the war and how he hates the thought of it.

Secondly, in the book's beginning chapters, Finny cares nothing for records or winning.  He beats the school's swimming record but doesn't want it to be recorded.  In contrast, when he returns to Devon, he begins diligently training Gene for the Olympics because he cannot go himself. 

Gene thinks that this is a different Finny, but as Finny lies in the hospital with his second broken leg (near the book's end), Gene finds all of the letters Finny had been sending to the world's armies to see if he could join them since he knew the US would not take him.  With his discovery, Gene realizes that all of the seeming contradictions of the "new" Finny are because Finny still wanted so badly to be part of the war effort.  He didn't want Gene and Brinker to enlist because he couldn't. He critiques the war because it hurts too much to admit that he cannot be where the action is. So in essence, Finny does not have a new lifestyle--he is hiding his old desires.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial