A Separate Peace

One evening after Finny's fall, Gene decides to put on Finny's clothes. Why do you think he does this?

Chapter 5

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Gene declares in this chapter, after dressing himself in Finny's clothes, that he "would never stumble through the confusions of [his] own character again" (54). However, confused is exactly what Gene is; at this point, he is still in denial about his responsibility for the accident, and also in denial that he could have committed such a malicious act in such a callous way. The statement is thoroughly ironic, because it trumpets a realization that needs to take place, but has not yet; also, it is ironic because Gene claims to be finding himself through making himself look like Finny, which would denote an even bigger identity crisis at work. Gene already knows that he and Finny, though they get along, are inherently different in nature; Finny is clean and pure and is neither competitive nor jealous, while Gene is by nature insecure, and this major flaw causes him to be suspicious and deceitful toward his friend.

When Gene dresses in Finny's clothes, he assumes Finny's look and manner of confidence, thinking that it suits him and describes who he has become; this is also ironic, since Gene's insecurity defines his differences from Finny, and since the clothes and the look belie Gene's character and his true feelings. However, the growing resemblance between Gene and Finny not only shows their differences, but also foreshadows their becoming like one person.