Athletics is a motif in A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Sports represent the competition Gene has with Finny and Finny's character. It keeps the competitive aspect in the story and the theme of jealousy. Finny does not enjoy the competitive nature of sports, but he likes the exercise and skill needed to play them. When he creates Blitzball, Gene says, "He (Finny) had unconsciously invented a game which brought his own athletic gifts to their highest pitch" (39). This proves Finny wants sports to be played only for fun, not competition. This is also shown when Finny breaks the swimming record and does not want to tell anyone. Gene tells Finny that it is not going to count and Finny says, "Well of course it won't count" (43). This shows that Finny knew the record would not be counted, yet he still tried to break it. These events show that Finny is not competitive, but Gene is very competitive.
Sports throughout the book show that Gene is competitive and thinks Finny wants to use them to distract him. This caused Gene to feel more competition with Finny, which leads to the incident at the tree. At the swimming pool, he is shocked that Finny refuses to break the record officially. Gene says, "to keep silent about this amazing happening deepened the shock for me" (45). Gene's shock proves he would announce the record's breaking to the whole school. We learn that Finny is humble, but Gene is arrogant.
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