A Separate Peace

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The Mind Murders the Body By Sina Samie "Adolescent friendships are of the most complex companionships due to the suppressed feelings of contempt one child may feel toward another." The deterioration of the complex friendship of Gene and Phineas is brought about in John Knowles' A Separate Peace by the combination of their envy and denial. Finny and Gene begin their summer of 1942 with the illusion of a great companionship. Gene's paranoia and envy disrupt the relationship between him and Finny. As their friendship disintegrates, Finny and Gene deny that the problems in their alliance even exist, which in turn leads to a tragic catastrophe.

Gene and Finny initiate their summer of 1942 with the false perception that their friendship is flawless. At the beginning of the story, Gene seems to accept Finny's superior athletic ability, but he resents what he feels was Finny flaunting his abilities. Finny demonstrates his superior agility to Gene when he grabs Gene's hand, lending him support when he loses his balance during one of their routine jumps from a towering tree.

Gene feels that he should not feel any "rush of gratitude toward Phineas," because he does not like feeling clumsier than Finny. Instead, he blames his presence in the tree on Phineas. Finny also has the role of being the leader in their friendship. They sustain the balance of the friendship when Phineas thinks of something to do, and Gene supports him. The problem with this is that Gene only trails Finny so that he would not "lose face with [him]." Gene never speaks up when he has a problem, hereby damaging their lines of communication. Another principal factor that dissolves the bond between them is Gene's jealousy. Gene is envious of Finny's athletic and social power. Finny has the ability to talk his way out of any tough situation; if he attempts to manipulate someone, that person might show "a flow of simple unregulated friendliness." Gene sees how everyone loves Phineas, and that makes him feel unworthy.

As Gene's envy and paranoia take over him, he is drawn farther from the truth that lies within his brotherhood with Phineas. When Gene realizes that his only advantage over Finny is his mind, he begins competing with Finny. His paranoia leads him to believe that Phineas has "deliberately set out to wreck [his] studies." Finny's only objective is to have fun with his best friend, however Gene sees it as Phineas' attempt to keep him from studying for his examinations. As Gene tries to unravel Finny's fiendish scheme, he isolates himself from what his friendship is about. He feels as if he "[doesn't] know Finny at all;" as if the Finny he had loved months ago is not the same as the Finny he detests now. Gene paranoia and jealousy finally drive him to injure Finny by jouncing the limb where he is standing. Gene later denies that he has anything to do with the accident, stating that it is the "first clumsy action [he] had ever seen [Finny] make." The chaos between Gene and Finny inevitably constitutes a full-scale war; both sides recognizing that there is an immense conflict, but neither willing to admit it. Their friendship continues, and their conflicts are buried superficially within. Meanwhile, Brinker and his colleagues bring Gene to trial to testify about Finny's "casualty." With the reality of the mishap unveiled, Finny storms out of the room crying, and falls "clumsily down the white marble stairs." When Finny once again fractures his leg, their shallow friendship is destroyed, and the hidden conflicts arise from where they were once hidden. With his inner grudge now exposed, Finny is ready to "unleash his hate against [Gene]." When Finny denies Gene's guilt, he suppresses his animosity; merely waiting for the truth to emerge so he can unleash his rage. After Phineas' unfortunate death, the bond between Gene and Finny is absolutely devastated. When Gene fails to weep, he reveals that it is not only Finny's funeral he is attending, but "[his] own." Gene betrays the trust of his friend; kills the man who, just months earlier, reaches out and grabs his hand, saving him from a potentially fatal fall.

At the conclusion of the story, the evils in both Gene and Finny are exposed and the only bond that ties the two together are the memories of the shattered relationship that should have never been started.