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One thing that Leper is able to do after his army experience is peg Gene's personality, and know what he did to Finny. Finally, naïve little Leper evaluates Gene in a more accurate way than anyone else in the book; "You always were a savage underneath," Leper tells Gene, "a swell guy, except when the chips were down" (136). The appraisal is absolutely right on, though Gene of course doesn't want to hear it. So Gene breaks out into violence, confirming Leper's statement. Gene says that he doesn't really care about Leper, and shows off his angry temperament quite a bit in this chapter. We see that Gene, for all his civility at school, still has a bit of a mean streak in him, and still has the capacity to lash out at people for nothing, like he did with Finny. Gene is unstable and unpredictable when faced with the truth, or with something that upsets him; he's not quite the nice rule-abider he wants to portray himself as, as he displays once again. This introduces the theme of appearance vs. reality, because as Gene refuses to understand his own nature, he will be unable to represent himself the way he really is.
This chapter is somewhat awkwardly written in places, like with Leper's brand-new personality on show, and with Gene's oddly motivated reaction at the end. Why Leper's talk disturbs Gene so much is not made clear at all; Gene doesn't say why he is so incredibly upset at it, though presumably it has something to do with him identifying with the feelings that Leper is expressing. Still, the prose in this section is rather murky, with the only reason that Gene gives for not wanting to hear it is that it has "nothing to do with [him]" (143). Does this mean that Gene feels responsible for what happened to Leper? On the other hand, how could he feel any responsibility, not having been there when Leper started going crazy, and after being a better friend to him than most of the boys at the school. Does Gene feel that he too is going crazy, which is why he doesn't want to hear it? Or is Gene simply being callous, and doesn't want to help Leper out any more? Because the motivation for Gene flipping out and running away is anything but clear, his reaction doesn't have the same power that the prose clearly intends it to have. Gene says that he "didn't want to hear any more of it. Not now or everI didn't want to hear any more of it. Ever" (143); the repetition emphasizes his sentiments, but since it is hard to figure out why he is acting like this, it is impossible to empathize. Gene's story gains most of its emotional impact through the empathy he helps his reader to feel with him, but when it is difficult to find a way to empathize with him, this emotional impact is lost.