Dealing with enemies has been a problem ever since the beginning of time. In ASeparate Peace by John Knowels, the value of dealing with your feelings anddealing with your enemies is shown by Gene Forester, a student in Devon duringWorld War 2 dealing with few human enemies, but his emotions create a nemesisfar greater than any human enemy. “I never killed anybody,” Gene hadcommented later in his adulthood, “And I never developed an intense levelof hatred for the enemy. Because my war ended before I ever put on a uniform; Iwas on active duty all my time at Devon; I killed my enemy there.” Nowabout the enemies that Gene had put into his own life. Gene had a best friend,his name was Finny, they were roommates and did many activities together.
Finnywas never the source, but the core of most of Gene’s feelings, both good andbad. First, one of the biggest problems that Gene had, that is jealousy. Genewas jealous of Finny’s confidency, openness, modesty, superb athletic abilities,his natural leadership skills, his ability to deal with stress easily, his carefree attitude, his people skills and, of course, his good looks.
Early in thestory Finny demonstrated his openness by when asked for his height, he said 5foot, 8½ inches, while Gene replies 5 foot, 9 inches. Finny pointed outthat they were the same height and you shouldn’t be ashamed to tell anybody yourreal height. Later that day, they skip dinner to go swimming in the river, byFinny’s choice, and are asked where they were on return. Finny quickly repliedthat they were swimming in the river, something that is forbidden, right down tothe last detail, and they got away with it. Gene said that the rules are verybent during the summer session, but it was actually Finny’s people skills thathad kept them out of trouble. Finny was very bold, as Gene many a time wished hewas, on one occasion Finny wore a bright pink shirt “symbolizing the firstU.S.
bombing in Europe. Gene called him a “faerie” but really enviedhim. Later Finny wore the school tie as a belt and when questioned he claimedthat it represented “Devon in the war.” Gene was hopeingly awaiting ascolding for Finny, but again, he got in no trouble. Another day the two werewalking and came across a plaque near the pool claiming that A. Hopkins Parkerheld the record for swimming across the pool the fastest, Finny took one look atand thought he could beat it, so without any practice at all he plunged into thepool, Gene timed him and he beat it, just like that.
Gene wanted to get anofficial scorekeeper so Finny could get a plaque but Finny said “no, in myhead I know that I did it, that’s all that matters,” thus demonstratingthat Finny is very modest and secure. The next day Gene and Finny went to thebeach, which wasn’t allowed. This was done at Finny’s request, Gene was going tostudy for a test, but he felt that he can’t say no to Finny so hey went. At thebeach Gene noticed a lot of people looking at them, he knew they were looking atFinny because of his well built body and his golden tan but Finny said that theywere looking at Gene. Before they return, Finny calls Gene his “bestpal” and Gene wanted to reply, but he wasn’t sure about it himself and healso has a hard time expressing his true feelings. That was his first enemy, nowthe next, anger. Gene’s anger isn’t too bad alone but when jealousy and angerare lurking in the same domain, they prove to be a deadly combination.
Gene wasangry about such things as Finny’s ability not to get in trouble, and Gene’sunwillingness to say “no” to Finny, but the real war started when hegot the idea that because Finny has low grades, he wanted to lower Gene’s gradesas well so he will better than Gene. Gene believed that Finny was trying towreak his studies with games, an organization they had formed-the Secret SuicideSociety, going to the beach and all this “you’re my best friendstuff.” Other than that, there is little anger between Finny and Gene.
Oneday, Finny wanted Gene to come jump off a high limb into the river with him, asthey have been doing for several weeks now, and he claimed that Leper, theschool nerd, would be jumping today as well. Gene burst out angrily at the ideabecause he was studying, and thought Finny was trying to wreak his studies, sohe said no. Finny took no offense and went along like nothing happened, but Genecouldn’t stand saying no to Finny and went anyway. Now he was enraged on theinside because he knew that Finny was not trying to wreak his studies and reallyis perfect. When at the tree, he was still sore at Finny and when he was aboutto jump, Gene shook the limb, Finny Lost balance, fell and shattered his leg.
Never to play sports again. Now Gene had a new enemy: Guilt. Gene knows that hehas broken Finny’s leg, it is all his fault, his best friend can never playsports again because of him. All his fault. This is really eating at him and hedenies it to everyone except himself.
Gene tries to tell Finny that he jostledthe limb and made him fall in the infirmary but the doctor came in andinterrupted. Later, in the fall, Gene visited Finny at his home and told himthat he did actually cause him too fall but Finny doesn’t want to hear any ofthose words being spoken from Gene’s lips so he doesn’t let him say anythingelse about the tree incident. Now well into the winter session, Brinker, afriend of Genes, comes into his room and Gene gets nervous thinking that Brinkernew that he had caused Finny’s accident, because of that Gene suggested they goto the butt room, a drab room where smoking was allowed only to be confronted bya bunch of “the fellas” jokingly trying to get Gene to say that hecaused the accident, Gene panicked, played along but could not bring himself tosay that he actually did push Finny out of the tree. Soon there is a heavysnowfall and nobody was there to shovel the snow off the tracks in a nearbytrain yard, because the workers were fighting in the war so many of the boysfrom Devon had volunteered to help shovel the snow. Hours later, after they weredone, a train with many happy, young and energetic newly enlisted soldiers init, it was then that Brinker declared that he was enlisting, and we soon findout that Gene wanted to enlist to help him get away from his problems and startanew, but due to Finny’s strong disapproval, he stayed at Devon. We now find outthat Gene thinks that there is always something deadly lurking in everything hewants, even if he has to place it there himself. Finny had gone home for a timebecause of his shattered leg but soon returned to Devon.
The day after hereturned, he wanted Gene to cut class and help him take a “tour” ofDevon; refamiliarizing himself with the place. Although he was not the kind tocut class, Gene agreed. In a few days we find out that among all the boys atDevon, the first one to enlist in the army is Leper, the nerd. Leper hadenlisted in the ski troops because he saw a film and it looked quite exciting.
Gene thought that their first contribution to the war would leave in style,proud and bold, but Leper, he just left. The next few weeks are all inpreparation for a secret winter carnival, organized by Finny which included aski jump (about 3 foot high), music, games with prizes and some very hard cider.Near the end Gene has received a telegram from Leper stating that he “hadescaped.” Finny had no Idea what he had escaped from.
Gene went to theplace specified on the card: Leper’s home. When there Gene found that Leper hadgone crazy. He was “nervous in the service” and had developed quite apsychotic personality. Gene and Leper start out talking friendly but Lepersuddenly lashes out at Gene calling him “high and mighty, savage,” and”lord of the manner,” this lead to Leper accusing Gene that he hadcaused Finny’s accident which made Gene kick Leper out of his chair. Gene hadgotten very defensive over this. In a few days later in the evening, Brinker,who has changed quite a bit since earlier in the book, came into Gene andFinny’s room with some of his friends and took the two to the auditorium in thefirst building.
There were several other boys waiting and made the two sit down,Brinker rambled on a bit and then started to question Gene and Finny on whereGene was when Finny was about to jump off the limb, at first Gene and Finnyagreed that Gene was on the ground, going up the tree as Finny fell but Finnyremembers that they were going to jump together, and Gene was on the limb withhim. Due to this unclarity, the boys go to get Leper, who was also there, and heremembers that both Gene and Finny were on the limb and that he say someonebounce up and down, but he would not reveal who fell that day. Finny has finallycollected all this information and stormed off in a rage out the door and downthe steps to their room but he didn’t make it down the steps safely, he fell andbroke his other leg. They get the wrestling coach, who knew first aid andeventually the doctor who took him away to the infirmary. They carried Finny outin a chair which reminded Gene of an “tragic, exalted personage.”Gene, who was in a very unstable state of mind went to the infirmary and stoodoutside Finny’s window while the Doctor and wrestling coach do a little work onFinny, by now Gene is hysterical, he can’t stop laughing, he just can’t. Afterthe Doctor leaves and it is just Finny in the room, Gene jumps up to the windowand tries to talk to Finny but Finny reacts in anger saying “come to breakmore of my bones,” but Gene has the sense to stay outside and he finallysays “Finny, I’m sorry.
” Over and over again: “Finny I’mSorry.” Gene makes his way to the stadium and falls asleep under thebleachers. The next morning he wakes up and returns to his room to find a noteon the door asking him to bring Finny’s clothes and toilet articles to theinfirmary, so he packs them and brings them to Finny. When he got there a phrasecame to mind: “this is it” very appropriate for the challenge he nowfaces. Gene enters and places the suitcase on Finny’s bed, Finny sorts throughhis things quietly and than says to gene that he has tried to enlist in everybranch of the army. but because of his leg, no branch will take him.
Genereplies to him that he would be no good in the army because he would confuseeverybody and doesn’t have the heart to kill. At this point Finny has a 100%realization that Gene intentionally had caused the accident at the tree and hetells him “you have already shown me, I believe you.” Those areFinny’s last words to Gene symbolizing the forgiveness that has taken place.Gene later returns to the infirmary and the doctor tells him that finny hasdied, his heart was stopped by a piece of bone marrow, and that he diedpeacefully. Finny never cried, not then, not at the funeral, because he was anextension of Finny and “you can’t cry at your own funeral.
” Gene didenter the war, but he never saw any action, and was never in any fighting, buthe realizes, as Brinker pointed out, that when Finny said that the war is just ajoke made up by old men, he was right, it is a game, and their sons are playingin that game and they are dyeing not for their country, but for the sins ofothers. He realized it but didn’t believe it, Gene feels that wars are made by”something ignorant in the human heart.” Gene was ready for the warnow, he was ready to face new problems, new enemies, Finny took problems alittle at a time, and that’s how Gene has changed-he is taking that sameapproach also. Hate, anger, fear jealousy, and the enemies in the human heartare gone from Gene now, Finny has taken them with him to his grave.