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A Separate Peace Essay

In the book A Separate Peace, written by John Knowles, there are two boys who can’t be any more different. One is an extraordinary athlete, and the other is an exceptional student. The athlete, Phineas or Finny, is handsome, confident, and almost physically perfect. The exceptional student, Gene, is hard working, disciplined, and envious of Finny’s athletic abilities. The two boys are different in many ways, yet they are friends and roommates in their college. In the book, one might think that they are great friends and that Gene admires Finny, but later Gene’s true feelings for Finny come out. One will find that Gene did not like Finny much and some might say that he despised him. Three examples are in the book that demonstrate their confusing relationship. The first would be when Finny breaks a swimming record, the second would be when Gene snaps before the accident, and the third would be after the accident. So, would you classify their relationship as a friendship?

Finny and Gene’s relationship go back and forth from friendly to agitated to annoyed with each other. The first example is when Finny breaks a swim record, but no one other than Gene is there to time and witness it. Gene tells finny that he had broken the record, and that Finny should swim again when there was more people to witness and a professional timer. Finny refuses and tells Gene that he does not want to. Gene wants Finny to get the attention and have his name on the record instead of A. Hopkins Parker. Gene seems to want to support Finny; however, Finny does not want the fame. In this scene, Gene is rooting for Finny and wants Finny to succeed. The next example, however, makes it seem like Gene is annoyed with Finny.


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It was hours before the accident, and Gene was studying for a test. Now, Gene is part of a “club” and he goes to all the meets to be as good as Finny. Gene and Finny were supposed to be studying for their French examination, but Finny, being his carefree self, decided to go to a club meeting. Gene wanted to study, but Finny asked/ bugged him to go to the meet. Finny told Gene that Leper, their friend, was going to jump out of the infamous tree. Gene snapped, slammed his book shut, and Finny asked him why he was angry. Gene’s response was, “Studying! You know, books. Works. Examinations. You don’t know what I’m talking about. No, of course not. Not you.” Finny and Gene continue to argue and talk, and Finny told Gene how Finny never knew that Gene had to study. Finny always thought it came naturally to Gene. A real friend wouldn’t have snapped within seconds of a simple question and some friendly bugging. Gene released some of his pent up anger at that moment, and Finny took the anger, and returned it with calm, gentle words. In this scene you see how Gene starts to show his true feeling for Finny, and you see Finny’s benevolence towards Gene. Gene finally decided to go with Finny and they go to the tree where the terrible accident happened. After the accident, one sees their relationship going downhill, and it never gets back to where it was.

After the accident, Gene went to visit Finny and confess about the accident. Gene confessed to Finny about how he, Gene, caused Finny to fall of the tree. Finny denied the confession and gets a little angry with Gene. Finny told Gene to stop and sit down, but Gene refuses and makes Finny angrier. Gene then realized that he was hurting Finny more and decided to back down. Gene felt sorry for Finny, and just wanted to leave Finny. In this scene one saw how Gene felt remorseful and sorry for Finny, but in other scenes, one can see how Gene does not fell bad about Finny. Gene goes back and forth from being rude to Finny to being nice and friendly to Finny. Gene, especially when Finny is hurt, feels guilty most of the time for inflicting pain on Finny. However, Finny, most times, tried to be kind to Gene. Their relationship goes bac and forth like this throughout the book.

The two boys are different in more ways than one, but are still companions. Their relationship, however, could be classified as which? Friendship or companionship? In the book, the reader starts out thinking that the two boys’ relationship is amicable, but will later find out that there are secret feelings for each other that are hostile. To a certain reader who is in a certain 5th period class at GAC, their relationship is friendly at first, but people and circumstances can change. To that certain reader, their relationship would be classified as a friendship overall, and like all friendships; there are times that the friendship is unstable and flawed.

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