A Separate Peace1
A Separate Peace by John Knowles is a coming of age novel in which Gene, the
main character, revisits his high school and his traumatic teen years. When Gene was a
teen-ager his best friend and roommate Phineas (Finny) was the star athlete of the school.
Gene was only a mediocre athlete and is always jealous of Finny. They form a Super
Suicide Society of the Summer Session which includes jumping from a tree into a river as
its initiation. Eventually, Finny falls from the tree fracturing his leg. This leads to
Finny’s death and Gene struggle to find himself. The relationship between these two
boys proves my thesis statement; a friend and an enemy can be one in the same.
The characters of Gene and Finny are as opposite as apples and oranges. Finny is
a free spirit and Gene enjoys structure. The main problem though, is that Finny has
“some kind of hold”(9) over Gene. The fact that Gene lets Finny talk him into things
troubles Gene. Therefore, when they form the Suicide Society and jump out of the tree it
becomes destructive for Gene because he is cutting himself off from the structure that
normally runs his life. With all the time commitments to Finny and the society Gene’s
grades plummet. He forms the idea that, “Finny had deliberately set out to wreck my
studies.”(45). Since academics are so important to Gene he begins to resent Finny and he
feels that he has to get revenge. This anger leads to Gene jouncing Finny out of the tree.