Phineas is the best friend of Gene . In chapter four of the novel Gene pushes Finny out of a tree and Finny breaks his leg. Subconsciously, Finny knows how the accident occurred but is the type of person who wants to believe that all of life is carefree, he hates to acknowledge that a person could actually hurt another. We see a great deal of this attitude when Finny constantly refers to WWII as something created by old fat men in order to keep young boys from having to much fun. After the accident at the tree Gene attempts to tell Finny that it was him who caused the accident, but Finny refuses to believe Gene.
Another boy in the story who was made to grow up by the war was Leper. When he sees the movies about the ski troops, he thinks that it looks fun, so he surprises everyone by enlisting. Leper did not quite know what he was getting into when he enlisted. He thought that it looked like a fun ski trip; he could serve his country and ski around the world at the same time. Most average teenagers are not faced with the pressure of a war and shortages of everything, and so Leper had to grow in order to handle the pressure of the war.
Climbing the birches of trees could be something that the speaker use to do when he was young. When his parents argued, or he was upset, sad, mad, or anything of that nature, The speaker could run to a tree and use his imagination to escape his troubles. Now he is trying to do that again except he is now an adult and can not escape the duties of being one. Being a youth is way more enjoyable than being an adult. You can have fun and do not have to worry about bills, financial problems, or other adult situations.
Finny thought of an extremely adventurous idea. He decided that he wanted to jump out of a tree into the river below. Finny also wanted the other boys that were with him to jump out of the tree. After Finny jumped he attempted to persuade Gene to follow his lead and jump out of the tree. Gene, a very conservative individual, did not even dream of ever jumping out of the tree but Finny got his way.
He turns to go inside out of the rain. At this point, the narrative flashes back to the summer of 1942, when Gene is sixteen and standing at the foot of the same tree, which looms hugely like a "steely black steeple." Gene is there with his roommate Phineas, or Finny, and three other boys: Elwin "Leper" Lepellier, Chet Douglass, and Bobby Zane. Finny tries to persuade them to jump off a branch of the tree into the river—a feat that no student of their age has ever tried before. The jump is done by the older boys in the school as part of their physical training prior to their graduation and departure for the war.
Each time, Gene and Finny must go first, but Gene always has a fear of jumping. Finny always was considered the best athlete in school, and Gene tried to counterbalance by being the best student. After a while of joining Finny's activities, Gene thinks that Finny is intentionally trying to make him fail out of school. He starts to dislike Finny and his activities, and Gene starts interrupting his schoolwork to jump from the tree more and more often. On one occasion, he thoughtlessly jounces the limb and Finny falls and breaks his leg.
In my opinion, this tells the story of two boys growing up, and the struggles that come with it. Finny’s changing outlook, Gene’s loss of innocence, and their friendship symbolizes the transition from childhood to adulthood. Finny’s care-free nature in the beginning of the book allows him to live vicariously, but as he matures, he begins to act somber until his death. This transformation not only allows Finny to mature, but it permits Gene to mature as well. After jumping off the tree for the first time in the beginning of the book, Finny attempts to weasel his way out of trouble by speaking his mind to a substitute teacher, Mr. Prud’homme, and it works.
After a while the two made it an almost day-to-day activity. The two boys were a lot alike, but Gene had this underlying resentment of Finny and he felt that Finny was deliberately trying to make him do badly in school because he was constantly dragging Gene along with him to go jump out of the tree. One time Finny decided that he and Gene should do a double jump, since that had never been done before. While up on the limb, Finny is the further out then Gene, and Gene gets this sudden impulse to shake the limb, which sends Finny plummeting into the shallow part of the river, breaking his leg. After the accident, Finny could never play any sports again; merely being able to walk is a blessing.
He is attending a special Summer Session at Devon, designed to speed up education to prepare the boys for the military draft in their senior year. Gene stands at the same tree with his best friend and roommate, Phineas (nicknamed Finny), and three other boys, Elwin Lepellier (Leper), Chet Douglass, and Bobby Zane. The tree seems enormous to Gene, but Finny suddenly decides to climb it and jump into the river, just like the Devon 17 year olds, who are training for military service. Finny jumps and dares Gene to follow. Against his better judgment, Gene climbs the tree and also jumps, but the three others refuse.
While getting ready for the war the boys practice and show off their skills on the tree by the Devon River. These jumps are done for fun yet the boys see them as a routine, something that has to be done. Knowles brings the theme of the loss of innocence in the novel for the first time by portraying Finny as the defender who gets the boys out of trouble by saying they had to jump out of the tree (22). This foreshadows how the innocence of the boys will be banished from themselves and their world. The tree also symbolizes the Forbidden Tree of Knowledge.