A Separate Peace

WHy did Gene eventually change his mind and regard Finny as being incapable of envy?


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Just as Gene's characterization of Finny has been dependent upon and influenced by his particular feelings about his friend, Gene's anger at Finny causes him to bring up Finny's weaknesses and shortcomings, and also colors his characterization of Finny as a competitive, jealous person. Gene projects his own feelings into Finny, which gives him excuses to be swept away by his own negativity, and indulge his less-than-complementary views about his friend as well. Gene states that Finny is full of "lonely, selfish ambition"; it's not Finny who has any of these qualities, but Gene, as shown by his determination to beat Finny, and not let his friend know of the competition (49). Naturally, Gene has problems with holding a grudge against his friend; he finds himself "slipping back into affection for him again," at least showing that Gene's vindictive qualities don't exactly come naturally (47).

Even the summer works to dull Gene's feelings of betrayal; the "heady and sensual clarity of these mornings" helps to calm him down, and contrasts sharply with Gene's stormy mood (48). Just as Gene's jealousy and competitiveness peak, the surroundings of Devon undergo a "second spring"; the landscape and beauty of the place grow as Gene's vitriol increases.

Also inversely related are Gene's tone and Finny's in their confrontation at the end of this chapter. As Gene becomes more and more bitter and sarcastic toward his friend, Finny's tone gets more and more honest and sincere, shaming Gene for his ill-will. Gene's judgment of Finny is finally exposed as being completely ironic, since he completely misjudged his friend and only he was guilty of the things of which he accused his friend. But, even more ironic is that this revelation doesn't really affect Gene's behavior or attitude toward his friend; he still causes Finny to fall from the tree, after Finny reveals that he is totally unaware of any competition.