The Letter "I have escaped and need help. I am at the Christmas location.
You understand. No need to risk address here. My safety depends on you coming at once.
Your best friend, Elwin Leper Lepellier. The letter at the end of chapter nine presents provocative and unexpected new events in this novel. Let's first understand where Leper is coming from. He had enlisted in the Army a few months earlier and was just sent off to the war. Recruiting agents that had come to Devon campus right after the time of Finny's broken leg and had recruited him. Finny had always felt that the war was highly implausible, a fluke organized by little fat men. Gene also felt skeptical about the war but only because the thought of it not being real was brought up by Finny. Next, we consider the relationship between the various boys at the time.
We know Finny was recovering from having broken his leg and that he desperately needed Gene to be there for him. The Winter Carnival had just occurred, which created a little bit of relief from the rush of events. This experience brought Gene and Finny closer, which once again proved to be treacherous for their well being.
The letter is pivotal because it comes right at the rise in Gene and Phineas relationship. Finny hadn't realized yet what actually transpired when the incident at the tree occurred and Gene was at one of his sanest levels. As we have seen, it was usually Gene who ruined the friendship or wounded it. As the story unfolds, we learn to expect that whenever there is a rise in the emotional closeness or physical state of friendship between the two it will end in a downward spiral.
To understand the letter, let's look at the basic structure of the letter and what Leper was actually trying to say at the time. Hopefully, by doing this we can grasp the emotional and physical state Leper was in and why the letter seemed like such a shocking cliffhanger.
Why did Leper made such decisions in trying to explain his dilemma? One of his first interesting style choices was his use of short, punchy sentences. This probably wasn't a letter. It reads like a telegram where you pay by the word. When using a telegram it is sent the same day or the next day. For some reason Leper felt he needed to get the message to Gene quickly. Later, we find out the rush is not that important. If he had mailed a letter, it would have made the difference of days or a week. When Gene finally got there the only thing that was urgent was Leper telling Gene that he shouldn't enlist in the war, of which he told such gruesome tales. I think that the author used the telegram component on purpose because it creates a sense of astonishment and you are left breathless and with nothing to say.
Now, we can look at the secrecy of the letter. Leper was in such a condition of shock that he didn't think about what he was going to say before he actually said it. I imagine that it must be very hard to think in this kind of moment. First of all he had seen all this tragedy and unrest at the battlegrounds which was enough to make any person somewhat crazed. The contrast between the two is stated by Leper and makes a person wonder. Even though America was trying to preserve this way of life in the beautiful Devon School it might do more harm than good.
In the end we notice that once again Gene and Phineas' relationship takes another plunge and once again the delicate balance, known as a "separate piece" is ruptured and is going to have to be repaired. With this under our belts we can try to interpret why their relationship can be severed by such a small plead, that of Lepers. I suggest that the "separate piece", the two boys undying relationship wouldn't be what it was if it wasn't for the hurt and anguish. What makes them such great friends is the fact that they have so much understanding of each other. They can mend all the hurt in a day. The reason why Gene's leaving creates such a problem is because Finny needs him and there is a sense of betrayal and disloyalty. If Finny could only stop being so jealous and understand that Leper is more desperate than he is this whole mess wouldn't occur over and over again. If the "separate piece" between Gene and Finny hadn't been tortured so many times it wouldn't be what it was. To me this suggests that the boys probably wanted their relationship that way because changing it would have taken little effort.