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Chapter 4 begins with Gene watching the sunrise on the beach; the sunrise is a symbol denoting many things, including the impending change in Gene's feelings toward Finny and in how he treats his friend, and Gene's coming change in his attitudes toward school and competition. The sunrise is not what Gene expected it to be, just as it symbolizes something different than expected; usually a sunrise means rebirth or enlightenment, but in this case it is used to describe a more negative, though no less dramatic, change that comes suddenly to Gene. Also, the sunrise describes Gene's progress through this chapter, and how he realizes that his ideas about Finny's competitiveness and backstabbing are completely incorrect, and that Finny's character is more beautiful than he could have expected.
The appearance of the beach, as the sun rises, is more descriptive of Finny, and of his way of being. Gradually, it becomes "totally white and stainless," as Finny's character turns out to be (41); though Gene expects that there is a gray area in Finny's nature, as the beach appears to be when the sun begins to come up, his incorrect ideas are soon dispelled, and he sees clearly Finny's innocence and faith in Gene. The sunrise and the beach metaphorically represent many of the changes and realizations that are so important in this chapter, and they also describe the progress of these friends' understanding of each other.
Gene's "realization" of Finny's allegedly competitive behavior "broke as coldly and as bleakly as dawn at the beach" (44); the simile repeats the imagery at the beginning of the chapter, suggesting daybreak as a motif and metaphor suitable to describe many aspects of the story.
Lazarus: Finny's awakening is like Lazarus' being brought back to life.
Eden: The white sand surrounding the boys as they wake.