A Separate Peace by John Knowles begins with Gene Forrester, the protagonist, going back to his old school, Devon School, after fifteen years. he reflects on his years there and his old friend Finny, who was an outgoing, athletic, talkative and mischievous boy. Unlike Gene, Finny excelled at sports nautrally, beating the school swimming record the in his first attempt. The boys later form their own secret society for people who have jumped off a nearby tree into the river. The first time they jump, Gene is shamed into it by Finny, and the second time Gene hesitates and Finny pushed him, saving his life. Even though Finny and Gene are good friends, Gene resents him throught most of the novel for being a better person and having a sure identity. Since Finny is so good at sports, Gene assumes that Finny is jealous of Gene's academic success and suspects that Finny is out to distract him and ruin his grades. He later realizes that there is no rivalry between them, but this only makes him more envious of Finny because he believes that Finny is a better person than he is. He says “I was not of the same quality as he" (Knowles 51). On their third jump, Gene's knees bend and wiggle the branch and Finny falls off and breaks his leg. Gene feels that he is guilty for the accident and tries to admit it but Finny does not believe him. World War II has started by now and one of their friends, Leper Lepellier, enlists right away. Gene goes to visit him and it turns out Leper has gone slightly mad and paranoid. When Leper and Gene return to school , Finny has another falls down the stairs and breaks his leg. The boys discuss again the first accident while Finny is in the infirmary, and Finny asks Gene if it was "just a blind impulse" (Knowles 162) up in the tree, he wants to believe that it is not part of some deeper hatred. This novel is told by an unreliable narrator Gene, and so not everything is stated plainly. you must read between the lines a lot in the book and that is what makes it one of my favorites. The relationship between Finny and Gene is very complex and only fully understood by someone who has experienced it before.
1. Gene is jealous of Finny most of the novel.Have you ever felt angry at someone out of jealousy, not out of hatred. How does this feeling cause conflicts within you and how does it usually play out in your relationships?
2. Finny becomes angry that he can no longer go to war. Put yourself in his position, as a young boy during the 40s and everyone around you is enlisting. Would you be upset or releived to not be able to go to war?