A Separate Peace

Explain the ambiguity of the early exchange between Brinker and Gene.

chapter 7

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Brinker Hadley makes his first real appearance in this chapter, and proves to be something other than our first glimpse of him suggests. "His face was all straight lines, " Gene says, "and he carriedŠhis height straight as well" (78). However, Brinker proves to be more pernicious, sarcastic, and temperamental than his straight image might suggest, and his characterization is also quite difficult to describe. Although his tone remains casual and friendly, the words coming from Brinker are not quite those of a polite conversation; immediately, Brinker starts using clearly accusatory words that contrast sharply with the light tone of voice he is trying to maintain. Brinker also slips into a condescending, superior tone; he calls Gene "my son," and spouts grandiloquent words about "our free democracy." It's hard to peg Brinker's personality down after this encounter, when he combines sinister words with a friendly tone, while infusing their interaction with a sense of Brinker's own arrogance.

Gene's guilt colors his responses, as he too is trying to maintain his innocence and not respond too seriously to Brinker's very unexpected accusations. It is not in Gene's nature to really lie, and as he tries to dodge Brinker's repeated questions, his voice becomes strained, he has to distract himself by moving books around, and his heart begins to pound. Gene even says, almost unconsciously, that "the truth will out," another remark prompted by the guilt that he is trying to hide. Gene's best defense in this situation is trying to distract Brinker with an offer to go downstairs and smoke; Gene proves himself to be very sensitive and still remorseful about what he did.