A Separate Peace
Gene’s “war” is an internal conflict pitting his own academic goals and desires against his loyalty towards a one sided friendship with Finny. This struggle is played out in his daily life at Devin School, which finally comes to a bitter end with the death of his friend and the final release of Finny’s hold. “Because my war ended before I ever put on a uniform; I was on active duty all my time at school; I killed my enemy there.” (204) When Gene’s subconscious actions overcome his loyalty to the friendship, he is left with the feeling of intense guilt. Gene’s goal was to be valedictorian of his class, because of this, he felt threatened by anyone who was better liked and more academically gifted than him. Although Finny was not an academic threat to Gene, he challenged him in popularity and athletics. Jealousy tore at Gene because no matter how hard he tried, he could never be as good at athletics as Finny, nor could he get away with the antics, specifically the pranks, that Finny did. “Looking back now across fifteen years, I could see with great clarity the fear I had lived in, which must mean in the interval I had succeeded in a very important undertaking; I must have made my escape from it.” (10) Although Finny represents Gene’s enemy, his true enemy was his own insecurity and fear.
The death of Finny ended the war that Gene was fighting. “I did not cry then, or ever about Finny. I did not cry even when I stood watching him being lowered into his family’s strait-laced burial ground outside of Boston.” (194) Gene felt that a piece of him had died along with Finny, and that Finny’s funeral seemed to be that of his as well. As Gene’s internal war ended, now that his hatred and fury had left him, he realized that he was ready for the real war that he would soon join. “I was ready for the war, now that I no longer had any hatred to contribute to it. My fury was gone, I felt it gone, dried up at the source, withered and...
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