A Separate Peace

Evaluate Finny's response to his injury and Gene's revelation? Is the response believable? Is it consistent with Finny's previous attitudes and behavior? Support your opinions with evidence from the novel.

Chapter 4-5

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When Gene goes into the infirmary to see Finny; Gene immediately reacts out of guilt for what happened, asking how the fall could happen, and Finny notes how shocked Gene seems at the whole thing, as if it were Gene that fell. Finny comes close to telling Gene that he had an inkling that Gene was somehow responsible for his fall; but, unlike Gene, he does not accuse his best friend, and immediately apologizes and closes the subject. Gene realizes that if he were in Finny's place, and Finny was responsible for the accident, that Finny would confess the truth; but Gene realizes he doesn't have the strength and nobility in his nature that Finny has, and this upsets him very much. Gene gets ready to tell Finny the truth, however much he doesn't want to.

In this chapter, Finny and Gene become divided by their differences; at the end of the next chapter, they will begin to pull together again, and become more alike in terms of character. Here, at the peak of their separation, Gene reveals a great number of differences between himself and Finny, especially in the way both of them handle the situation they are in. If Finny was in his place, Gene knows that Finny would be completely honest about what happened; if Gene were in Finny's place, he might just accuse his friend, which is something that Finny is much too loyal to do. When Finny says that he reached out for Gene before he fell from the tree, Gene, who is still not trusting of Finny, takes that to mean that Finny meant to drag Gene down too; Finny says he just meant to steady himself.

This exchange again highlights the character differences between Finny and Gene, especially as Gene tries to rationalize what happened and talk around the truth in a way that obscures his guilt, and Finny addresses his thoughts in a careful way that conveys the truth of the situation, without misleading or maligning his friend in the process. Finny uses understatement in introducing his thoughts, that Gene might be responsible; "awfully funny expression you hadŠlike you have right now," he tells Gene, getting his point across without causing any disturbance. While Finny is very calm and speaks quietly, cautiously, and with understatement, Gene is frantic, desperately trying to rationalize things, and forced to speak out of a lingering guilt; the contrast between the two is furthered by their opposing demeanors during the infirmary visit.