A Separate Peace

A Separate Peace

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Phineas, a main character in “A Separate Peace”, was a very athletic, cheerful young man. He was a friend through and through, and he was a buddy to everyone around him. That isn’t the only thing Phineas was. Phineas represented an innocence beyond this world that no normal human can find. He had a sincerity that was infused with all his words and a joyfulness that could not be dampened.
Finny’s innocence is personified multitudes of times throughout the book. He shows great sincerity towards Gene when he tells Gene that Gene is his best friend on their day trip to the beach. (23) Finny’s unhindered joy finds ways to manifest itself in obscure ways, such as when he wore the pink shirt and the tie belt. “Well, we’ve got to do something to celebrate.” (25) What most people find fright in, Finny finds excitement, such as when he jumps from the tree and founds the Summer Suicide Society. “This is the most fun I’ve had in weeks. Who’s next?” (16) An example of Finny’s innocence is showed through blitzball, the game he created with no teams, therefore without any losers of winners, but it was loads of fun. (37-40) Though, with an innocence this perfect, there is bound to be corruption.
Finny’s innocence was corroded by the jealousy and malice of his supposed best friend, Gene. Gene at first saw Finny as a good, but very influential friend. Although, partway through the book, Gene began to despise Finny, thinking that Finny was only trying to be better than him. “That way he, the great athlete, would be way ahead of me. It was all cold trickery, it was all calculated, it was all enmity.” (53) In all actuality Finny was a great person as shown by the above paragraph. “Now I knew that there never was and never could have been any rivalry between us. I was not of the same quality as he.” (59) Eventually this jealousy from Gene towards Finny’s perfection tried to wear away the wholeness Finny had found. This shown when Gene shook the limb of the tree. (59-60) This breaks Finny’s leg which ends, essentially, where his perfection originates from, his athletics. “Sports are finished for him, after an accident like that. Of course.” (63) Finny still retained his innocence but, it was not the same as before.

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Finny’s innocence may have still tried to continue to strive, but eventually the darkness exerted from Gene would snuff out Finny’s perfection. His innocence still tries to live on through Gene’s athletics. “Leave your fantasy life out of this. We’re grooming you for the Olympics, pal, in 1944.” (117) He also tries to liven up the spirits of everyone that he surrounds. “There is now. We’ll have it in that park next to the Naguamsett. The main attraction will be sports, naturally, featuring I expect a ski jump.” (129) Alas under the pressure of Brinker, the straw that broke the camels back, he becomes truly angry for the first time in the whole book. “’You get the rest of the facts, Brinker!’ he cried. ‘You get all your facts!” I had never seen Finny crying…” (177) Perfection in the book had just ended because, as Knowles portrays, innocence has no room for anger. “’This is something I think boys of your generation are going to see a lot of,’ he said quietly, ‘and I will have to tell you about it now. Your friend is dead.’” (193)
Through the book, Phineas’ deteriorating state shows the effects that war has on once carefree and joyful young men. The innocence of Finny is something that cannot be found by normal human beings but should be preserved by those who witness it. But with an innocence so complete, jealousy and corruption are bound to be born in those around who are imperfect.

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