A Separate Peace


Points To Ponder

1. Finny is able to assert that Gene is his “best pal.” Gene, however, cannot return the compliment. Why not?

Like Leper Lepellier, Gene is often concerned primarily with himself. He lacks the kind of transcendent virtue that Finny possesses to be able to rise above his own pride. The quandary in which he finds himself with relation to Finny is one akin to a battle between good and evil. Gene’s good side compels him to stay loyal to Finny. Gene’s evil side, however, compels him to challenge and try to best Finny.

Gene also has problems with confidence, with understanding his own nature, with interpreting the nature of Finny, and with squaring the two. He is haunted by his own duplicity. When Finny confesses his sincere friendship, Gene accepts it as though it is his due. After searching his conscience, however, he realizes that his friendship is insincere. It is constructed not on love but on fear. Gene fears being excluded. It takes all the events of the novel for Gene to finally overcome his fear and demonstrate a real love and true concern for Finny.

2. The tree by the river is the scene of Finny’s physical fall and Gene’s moral fall. If the tree is reminiscent of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, do the boys evince signs reminiscent of Original Sin?

The boys talk about a “blind” impulse, something “savage” underneath, and some “crazy” and ignorant thing inside. Each of these attempts to identify the irrational agent inside themselves is reminiscent of the Original Sin connected to the myth of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Moreover, the summer session during which Gene and Finny become friends is a kind of idyllic period that faintly resembles Paradise.

The tree by the river, moreover, serves as a source of fear for Gene, and that fear stays with him until he acts upon and gives in to the “blind” impulse inside of him. The term “blind” implies both a loss of sight and of...

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Essays About A Separate Peace