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Through out the book A Separate Peace, Gene, his growth and harmony seem to change. His opinions, and outlook on life also seem to change as his relationship with Phineas does likewise. Gene’s self-perception changes from insecurity to imitation to independence as his relationship with Phineas changes.
As the book begins, Gene is unsettled by Phineas and somewhat mystified by him. Like a legend from a western tale. As the book moves on and Finny starts to change Gene’s life, Gene appears to become very insecure and afraid of what will happen next. On page 11 it says “ ’We’d better hurry or we’ll be late for dinner,’ I said, breaking into what Finny called my ‘West Point stride’.” Which signifies the insecurity phase of Gene’s life. He was a stickler to the rules, didn’t want to be late. He was always concerned with what was right, and proper. But Phineas changes all that in him, and rather quickly too. When Finny decides to skip dinner and wrestle instead, Gene becomes confused, but goes along with his every word, and action.
Later on in the book, after the accident, when Gene looks at himself in the mirror while wearing Finny’s clothes, on page 54, it says “… it was no remote aristocrat I had become, no character out of daydreams. I was Phineas, Phineas to life. … standing there (it seemed) that I would never stumble through the confusions of my own character again.” That meant that following that day, he was going to try to live each day more like Finny. Through out the book Phineas taught Gene more and more about himself, he taught Gene to live each day to the fullest, because you might never have another.
At the end of the book, once Finny has past away, Gene learns to live life for himself, not through somebody else. He was ready for anything. He no longer “owed” anybody anything. He had nothing else to suffer for. On page 195 it sums up the independence part of his relationship with Finny best. “I was ready for the war, now that I no longer had any hatred to contribute to it.
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