In A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, we as the reader are introduced to thenarrator, Gene Forrester, who takes us through flashbacks of his years at an exclusive NewHampshire prep school, Devon. The novel begins with the adult Gene returning to Devon.
The sights of Devon, and in particular a large tree and a marble staircase, revive memoriesand deep emotions for Gene, which then introduces a number of characters, includingPhineas ("Finny"), who is Gene's roommate. Gene and Finny could not be more different inthe way that Gene has a quiet and intellectual personality where as Finny is carefree and hasan athletic demeanor. Gene is envious of Finny's ability to get away any sort ofmischievous act and his carefree nature. Finally the day came when Gene's jealousy finallytook hold of him and made him jostle the branch of the tree they were sitting in, makingFinny crash to the ground, breaking both legs, leaving him permanently paralyzed.
At thatmoment, Gene becomes aware of his inner-self and learns of his true feelings. Neither ofthem knew how much Gene's lapse of judgment would change their their lives forever.
Life before the fall consisted of daily routines, mischief, and the "Super SuicideSociety of the Summer Session". "I knew they would be wondering where we were but wewent on ahead up to the room to study," (page 17) the daily routine of eating dinner in thedinning room was skipped when Finny and Gene decided to study up in their room. Gene isfollows all the rules but only when finny is around does he ever decided to act against hisrule abiding ways. Gene has a more submissive personality to Finny's almost overbearingcharacter. Finny decides he wants to go for a swim in the river and drags Gene with him,once again missing dinner which is strictly against the rules. Gene knows that they have ahigh probability of getting caught and warns Finny but Finny couldn't care. The "SuperSuicide Society of the Summer Session" is an " underground brotherhood" created by Finnyto help pass the dull summer school sessions. "The Charter Members, he and I, had to openevery meeting by jumping ourselfs," (page 34) everything the club revolved around was "thetree" which was for military training purposes only but anything that tested the rules were alright by Finny.
After Finny's fall, Gene becomes aware that he is the extremely jealous of Finny.
Over a long period of time Gene had been denying his feelings of hatred towards Finny,saying that it was normal for him to feel this way. Now all of the feelings come back to himand he sees how terrible he really is. The realization of these feelings cause Gene to falldramatically in comparison to Finny. While Finny was in the hospital Gene puts on Finny'sclothes in order to fill an empty space in the room, as if Finny is there with him. After therealization of the person he truly is, Gene must now confront his problems, face reality, anddeal with the future. He Begins to take on Finny's views about World War II and hetransforms his personality from his own to Finny's. He learns that communication is veryimportant in a relationship and that he must express himself instead of keeping his feelingsinside, as he had always done with Finny. Gene also learns to listen to himself rather than toothers. Now Gene must accept the guilt for Finny's problems after his injury and must helpFinny as a punishment. Gene does this by "giving a part of himself to Finny" as we see withthe case of sports throughout the rest of the novel. Gene finally gains self-acceptance andallows himself to forgive himself for what he did. Forgiving himself is the step whichallows Gene to lead a normal life and enter society. He finally forgave himself completely,allowing him to "come in out of the rain". By accepting as well as forgiving he person thathe is, Gene enables himself to move on and join the adult world.
After the fall finny still has his natural confidence and carefree nature but he has lostall ability to immerse himself in anyone sport. Due to the loss of movement in his legs Finnydecides he will train Gene for the up coming Olympics. Finny lives through Gene andallows Gene to take over part of his personality. Finny deny to himself that Gene mayhave had any part in him falling of the branch but subconsciously he knows its true. Some ofthe other boy try and prod the truth out of Finny but Finny sticks to his courageous was andwon't admit that Gene would have had even the slightest thing to do with him falling. Inorder to draw attention away from the interrogation of Gene, Finny storms out of the emptyclassroom where he was being questioned and fell trying walk up the marble stair case.
Many of the boys believe that Finny falling on the staircase was just an accident and that inthe blurring confusion of the interrogation that he had just slipped and fell.
Never did it cross their minds that they both would end up needing each other somuch and learning to depend on one another. Even though Gene believed that Finny hadperfect attributes about him, Gene didn't stop and realize that Finny was what Gene wantedto be. It took a fall from grace to show their vulnerabilities, but little did they know thatthey would end up depending on one another to help realize their true self.