A Seperate Peice Essay, Research Paper
Gene Forrester is a quiet, intellectual student at Devon School in New Hampshire. During the Summer Session of 1942, he becomes close friends with his daredevil roommate Finny, who has a talent for getting away with mischief through his sincere, disarming charisma. Finny prods Gene into making a dangerous jump out of a tree into a river, and the two start a secret society based on this ritual. Gene envies Finny’s astonishing athletic abilities, and he begins to suspect that Finny envies his superior academic achievements and has been taking steps to distract him from his studies. His suspicions turn to hatred, but he makes sure to maintain an appearance of friendship so Finny will not suspect him. Gene realizes he was grievously mistaken about the existence of any rivalry between them one day when Finny expresses a sincere desire to see Gene succeed. He goes to the tree to jump with Finny while he is still in a state of shock from the force of his realization, and when Finny gets out to the edge of the branch, Gene shakes it, causing Finny to fall to the bank and shatter his leg. The doctor tells Gene that Finny’s athletic days are over. Gene goes in to see Finny and begins to confess what he has done, but the doctor interrupts him and Finny is sent home before Gene gets another chance. The Summer Session ends, and Gene goes home for a brief vacation. On his way back to the school from his home in the South, Gene stops by Finny’s house and confesses that he shook the branch on purpose. Finny refuses to listen to him, and Gene takes back his confession and continues on to school. World War II is in full swing, and the boys at Devon are all eager to enlist in the military. A prominent class politician, Brinker Hadley, suggests to Gene that they go off to enlist together, and Gene agrees. That night he finds Finny has returned to school, though, and he drops his plans to enlist, as does Brinker. Finny expects Gene to take his place as the school’s sports star, and when Gene protests that sports no longer seem important in the midst of the War, Finny declares the War is all a massive hoax. Finny tells Gene he once had aspirations to go to the Olympics, and Gene agrees to train for the 1944 Olympics in his place. Everyone is surprised when a gentle, naturalistic boy named Leper Lepellier becomes the first one in their class to enlist. Gene and Finny go on training, shielded within their private version of world events. During a winter carnival Finny has organized, a telegram arrives for Gene from Leper, saying he has escaped and desperately needs him to come to his home in Vermont. Gene goes and finds that Leper has gone slightly mad. Leper, who was present at Finny’s accident, reveals that he knows the truth about what happened. Gene becomes frightened by Leper’s ranting because of its possible implications for his own reactions to military life, and he runs away back to Devon. When Brinker hears of what has happened to Leper, he laments in front of Finny that Devon has already lost two of its potential soldiers. Gene, afraid that Finny will be hurt by this remark, tries to get him to launch into his hoax story again, but Finny lays it to rest. Brinker has always harbored suspicions that Gene had something to do with Finny’s accident, and in an attempt to dispel them once and for all, he organizes a midnight tribunal of schoolboys and has Gene and Finny summoned without warning. They question the two about what happened, but Finny is too confused about the whole thing to speak conclusively, and Gene maintains he does not remember. They bring in Leper, who was seen earlier that day skulking about the bushes, and he begins to implicate Gene in causing the accident. Finny declares he does not care about the facts and rushes out of the room. He falls down the stairs and breaks his leg again. Gene sneaks over to the Infirmary that night to see him, and Finny sends him away angrily. Gene wanders the campus until he falls asleep under the football stadium. The next morning, he goes to see Finny again and tells him he is sorry and that his action did not arise from hatred. Finny accepts this explanation and the two are reconciled. While the doctor attempts to set Finny’s leg, a piece of marrow detaches from the bone and stops Finny’s heart, killing him. Gene does not cry when he hears the news, because he feels he has become a part of Finny and will always be with him. The boys graduate and go off to enlist in relatively safe branches of the military; Gene is glad that at least his coming regimentation will not take place at Devon, where he spent his idyllic summer. Gene Forrester – The narrator of the novel. The main body of the story begins when he and the other boys are 16 years old. Gene is thoughtful and intelligent, with a tendency to brood. He is extremely competitive, has a sarcastic sense of humor, and shuns overt displays of emotion, just like most students at Devon. Finny (Phineas) – Finny is honest, handsome, self-confident, utterly disarming, extremely likable, the best athlete in the school; in short, he is perfect in almost every way. He has a talent for engaging others with his spontaneity and sheer joy of living. His guileless rebelliousness makes even the sternest proponents of order indulge in moments of anarchical bliss with him. Finny lives for moments of pure, unrestrained friendship, and his strong sense of loyalty extends to any group of which he is a member, including (Gene muses) the human race as a whole. Brinker Hadley – A charismatic class politician with an inclination for orderliness and organization. He is very straight and conservative; his one striking characteristic is his large behind. He has complete confidence in his own abilities and has a tendency to carry his ideas through with startling efficiency and even a degree of ruthlessness. He will go to any lengths to discover the facts when he feels they are hidden from him, even when they are best left unknown. Leper Lepellier – His real first name is Elwin, but only his mother ever bothers to use it. A mild, gentle boy from Vermont who adores nature and engages in peaceful, naturalistic hobbies. He is not popular at Devon, but pays no attention to such things. He is often taken by surprise, most especially by the war. Chet Douglass – Gene’s main rival for the position of class valedictorian. He is an excellent tennis and trumpet player, and possesses a sincere love of learning. Quackenbush – His first name is Cliff, but no one ever uses it. He has been systematically disliked at Devon from the start, and he takes any opportunity to take out his frustrations on anyone he can consider inferior to himself. Mr. Ludsbury – The master in charge of Gene’s dormitory. A stern disciplinarian, he thrives on orderliness and the unquestioning obedience of schoolboys. Dr. Stanpole – Devon’s resident medical doctor. A caring man who regrets the troubles that afflict the youth of Gene’s generation. Gene Forrester returns to the Devon School in New Hampshire in 1958, 15 years after he graduated. He walks around the school and reflects on how fearful he was there during the War. He ruins his shoes trudging across the soggy playing fields to look at a tree by the river, which he picks with some difficulty out of a grove of similar trees. After pondering the tree for a while, he turns to go in out of the rain. At this point, the narrative flashes back to the summer of 1942, when Gene is 16. He stands at the foot of the tree with his friend Phineas, called 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 no Upper Middler (as their class is called) has ever tried before. Finny jumps first to show them it is possible, and then sends Gene up for his turn. Gene jumps silently in a mild state of shock, but the other three refuse. The boys head back to the center of campus, Finny and Gene walking side by side. Finny tells Gene he was very good once he shamed him into jumping; Gene denies being shamed into it, knowing that he was. The school bell rings, signaling dinner, and Finny teases Gene for hurrying to be on time for dinner. He wrestles Gene to the ground while the others run ahead. Finny and Gene miss dinner and go straight to their room to do homework. This first chapter establishes the narrator’s position as a man looking back on an incident in his adolescence from a perspective of greater maturity and wisdom. The narrative never returns to his visit to the school in 1958, but it does flash ahead at some points to offer brief scenes from his life after graduation that relate somehow to his life at school, which is told chronologically. During the adult scene, Gene hints at major points in the plot, most notably “a death by violence”; this catches the reader’s attention and leaves him to wonder just who will be killed and how it relates to the tree Gene describes so ominously. Another important point Gene describes is the terrible fear in which he lived his life at Devon. Even as he hints at these plot points, however, he emphasizes the degree to which his view of them has changed, how he has grown personally and how the world around him has changed. He stresses the importance of perception in influencing one’s thoughts and feelings, how his memory has exaggerated the tree’s size and appearance because of what it meant to him, and how the giants of his childhood have shrunken relatively as he has grown. He quotes a proverb in French, “the more things remain the same, the more they change”; this is an important theme in this chapter and offers a way of looking at the rest of the book. Gene attaches great importance to places as reflections of the psychological impact of some event or character associated with them, and his descriptions of settings seem to convey subtle information about the plot and characters as well as his own inner life throughout the book. Perhaps this is why the narrative opens with Gene’s return to places that hold such dear meaning for him, places of profound fear and uncontrollable joy. Seeing these places again with a new perspective affects him deeply, and he describes himself as changed and grateful for the experience after going out to see the tree. Gene’s discussion of Devon’s architecture is especially significant to this theme. He describes it as representing the “contentious harmony” of the school as a whole (meaning its social as well as physical aspects), and admires it for its slow growth into harmony with the past, a feat he wishes to achieve himself. The symbolic aspect of the setting of the school (and all other settings) is extremely personal for Gene. He says, for instance, that he feels as if the school did not really exist except when he was there; its meaning for him stems from his own experiences there, so on one level, it really did not exist except in his presence. The marble stairs in the First Academy Building hold a wealth of meaning for him, which he only discovers as he contemplates them during his lonely tour of the campus. He concludes from the shallowness of the depressions worn in them after decades of use that they must be especially hard, a fact he now realizes is crucial to an understanding of his early experiences. The hardness of the stairs represents an important abstract concept, perhaps the durability of the school itself, and offers insight into a more concrete element of the plot, as the stairs will play an important role in the story’s climax. In the flashback section of this chapter, Knowles describes the two main characters and their friendship. Finny is established as a charismatic daredevil with a talent for manipulating others (although it is unclear how consciously contrived this manipulation is) and a need to live by his own rules. Gene is a thoughtful introvert temporarily experimenting with sarcasm, which he later concludes is a sign of a weak personality. They bond with each other in their dangerous act, but Finny is clearly the dominant partner in their friendship, and Gene already shows slight hints of resenting this. Also important to this section is the influence of World War II and its impact on the boys’ lives. The class ahead prepares for going off to war, and Finny expresses at several points a wish to be patriotic and soldierly. Mr. Prud’homme, a substitute master for the Summer Session, comes by the next morning to discipline Gene and Finny for missing dinner, but he is soon won over by Finny’s gregarious conversation. Finny decides to wear a bright pink shirt as an emblem of celebration of the first Allied bombing of Central Europe. Gene envies him slightly for getting away with wearing this shirt (which he says makes him look like a fairy) and virtually anything else he wants to do. Mr. Patch-Withers, the substitute headmaster, holds tea that afternoon. As he discusses the bombing with Finny, his wife notices Finny is wearing the school tie as a belt. Gene waits expectantly to see him get in trouble, but Finny manages to talk his way out of it and accomplishes the impossible feat of making the stern Mr. Patch-Winters laugh. Finny and Gene leave the party together laughing, and Finny suggests a jump from the tree and pushes Gene along toward the river. Finny refuses to believe the Allies really bombed central Europe, and Gene concurs. They swim for a while in the river, and Finny asks if Gene is still afraid of the tree. Gene says he is not, and they agree to jump together to form a new secret society, which they call the “Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session.” When they get out on the limb, Gene turns back to Finny to make a delaying remark and loses his balance. Finny catches him, and then they both jump. In this chapter, Gene begins to acknowledge his envy of Finny. He wishes he was as skillful at getting away with unconventional actions as Finny and covets his various abilities and popularity, but he consoles himself since having him as a best friend is a compliment and a sign of achievement in itself. He decides that Finny does not take advantage of people, but is simply an extraordinary person that people naturally like. Gene finds himself wanting to see Finny get in trouble, but only for the thrill of it, not to cause Finny’s actual downfall. This excuse is transparent, though, and reveals an inner conflict that will become more important as the story progresses.Finny lives for moments of unrestrained friendship with anyone who will offer it to him, even the masters, and his casual ignorance of the rules wears down the school’s general austerity. The masters act much less suspicious and disapproving of the students during the school’s first Summer Session, and Finny interprets this as a sign of greater maturity on the masters’ part. This relaxed atmosphere, allowing the boys more freedom than usual, comes partly from the way the boys remind the masters of peace and innocence in this time of war; the boys are one of the few groups of people left who can truly enjoy themselves. Gene is not ashamed of the selfish happiness he and the other boys relish, and he cites it as the reason he and Finny cannot believe in the bombings in Europe. The War is still too far removed to be real. The Super Suicide Society gets off to a successful start that night as Finny convinces six other boys to sign on as inductees. Finny creates rules spontaneously, including one requiring him and Gene to start each meeting by jumping out of the tree; Gene hates this rule and never gets used to the jump. They hold meetings every night and Gene never misses one, even though he is bitterly afraid every time he jumps. Finny, who loves sports above all else, is disgusted with the Summer Session’s athletic program, especially the inclusion of badminton, and spontaneously invents a new sport called blitzball one afternoon with a medicine ball he finds lying on the ground. The sport catches on immediately, and Finny becomes its unrivaled master. One day, Finny and Gene are at the pool alone, and Finny decides to break one of the swimming records. He breaks the record on his first attempt, but only Gene witnesses it. Finny refuses to try again in public and forbids Gene to tell anyone about it. Finny remains uncharacteristically silent for a while before proposing that they go to the beach, which is hours away by bicycle and strictly forbidden; Gene agrees and they slip away down a back road. The ocean is cold with heavy surf and the sand is scorching hot; Finny enjoys himself immensely and tries to keep Gene entertained. They eat dinner at a hot dog stand and each has a glass of beer with forged draft cards before settling down to sleep on the dunes. Finny tells Gene he is glad he came along and that they are best friends; Gene starts to say the same, but holds back at the last moment. This chapter further develops Gene’s relationship with Finny. The nightly jump out of the tree becomes a source of smoldering resentment for Gene. He fears the jump, but fears losing Finny’s respect even more, which leads to tension that he tries to suppress. This tension is evident when Finny stops Gene from falling out of the tree, practically saving his life; Gene feels no great gratitude because he remembers his life would not have been in danger in the first place had it not been for Finny. Finny is strongly individualistic and prizes the freedom to live by his own rules. Gene allows Finny to create rules for him. The idea of simply refusing to jump out of the tree never occurs to Gene, even though complying goes against his instincts. This same force acts on Gene when he agrees to go to the beach with Finny. He does not want to go, risks expulsion in going, but does not consider refusing. Gene really does not understand Finny, although he has not yet recognized this. Finny does things for sheer personal enjoyment and assumes on some level that everyone else does so as well. He sees sports as an absolute good at which everyone wins simply by participating; to think otherwise would indicate some sort of disloyalty in beating someone else at a game. Finny breaks the swimming record just to see if he can, and refuses the opportunity to do it officially. This absolutely bewilders Gene, even more than Finny’s incredible feat of taking up an entirely new sport and excelling at it with no practice whatsoever. Here Gene hints at the key to the fundamental, ultimately fatal difference between the two of them when he says Finny seemed to him at that moment too unusual for rivalry, the basis of most relationships at Devon. Unlike Gene and just about every other student at Devon, Finny does not see himself as competing against his classmates in everything he does. When Finny courageously puts forth a show of bare emotion in telling Gene he is his best friend, Gene knows he should return the sentiment, but he (like most Devon students) is not used to such emotional honesty and feels somewhat frightened by it. Something even deeper than the constraints of conventionality holds him back from replying to Finny. In retrospect, Gene decides that perhaps he did not reply because deep down, he truly did not feel towards Finny what Finny felt towards him. Gene places the truth on a level of emotion deeper than thought. Gene awakens with the dawn. Finny wakes up after a short while and goes for a quick swim before they head for home. They arrive just in time for Gene’s ten o’clock test in trigonometry, which he flunks. It is the first time he has ever failed a test, but Finny gives him little time to worry about it. They play blitzball all afternoon and have a meeting of the Super Suicide Society after dinner. That night, Gene tries to catch up on his trigonometry, and Finny tells him he works too hard. Finny accuses him of trying to be class valedictorian, and Gene denies it. Suddenly, he realizes that he wants to be valedictorian, so he can match Finny and all his athletic awards. Gene asks Finny if he would mind if he did end up head of the class. Finny jokingly says he would kill himself out of envy; Gene realizes that the jocular tone is a screen and that he is serious. Gene is highly disturbed at his realization of the rivalry between them, and he concludes that all Finny’s overtures of friendship and his insistence that Gene share in all his diversions are calculated attempts to ruin Gene’s chances for academic success equal to Finny’s athletic achievements. Gene works to become an exceptional student, and begins to surpass his only real rival, Chet Douglass. Finny cannot compete with Gene academically, but he intensifies his studying as well; Gene interprets this as an attempt to even out the sides of the rivalry, since Gene is an excellent student and a fairly good athlete, while Finny is an excellent athlete but a poor student. Despite Gene’s suspicions of Finny, the two get along well in the weeks that follow. The masters give up their pretenses of discipline, and one day Gene tells Mr. Prud’homme about his trip to the beach with Finny and finds him completely unconcerned with their rule breaking. Gene continues to attend the nightly meetings of the Suicide Society so as not to let on to Finny that he knows anything is wrong between them.One night as Gene studies for a French final, Finny comes into the room and announces that Leper Lepellier is planning on jumping from the tree that night to become a full member of the club. Gene does not believe Leper will ever make the jump for real and concludes Finny must have put him up to the attempt to interfere with his studying. Gene complains that his grade will be ruined and begins to storm out to the tree, and Finny tells him casually that he does not have to come along if he wants to study, as it is only a game. Finny says he did not realize that Gene ever had to study, that he thought his academic prowess came naturally to him. He expresses admiration of Gene’s intelligence and says he should be serious about something at which he excels; he tells Gene to stay and study. Gene says he has studied enough and insists on going to see Leper jump.As they walk toward the tree, Gene decides that there must never have been any rivalry between them, and that he is not of the same quality as Finny. Finny proposes a double jump with Gene, and they strip and ascend the tree. Finny goes out onto the limb first, and when Gene steps out, his knees bend and he jostles the limb, causing Finny to lose his balance and fall with a sickening thud to the bank. Gene then moves out to the end of the limb and dives with a calm certainty he has never had before. Gene’s envy climaxes in this chapter and crushes Finny in its denouement. Finny’s teasing of Gene about his aspirations to be valedictorian causes Gene to evaluate the motives behind his ambitions–he realizes that they stem from an intensely competitive spirit and a fear of being shown up, which naturally results in envying someone as talented as Finny. Gene dislikes this tendency in himself, and he turns outward to see if he can find something along the same lines in Finny. He latches onto some rather dubious evidence and concludes Finny must harbor the same pettiness and duplicity that he does, and their friendship abruptly shatters in Gene’s mind. Not just this particular friendship, but the idea of friendship itself dissolves for Gene, and he feels he can trust no one. He looks desperately for some thought to comfort him in his newfound misery and clings to the idea that whatever their external differences, he and Finny are even in enmity and cold, calculating self- interest. He hated Finny for breaking the swimming record; Finny must have hated him for his good grades. Gene interprets Finny’s increased studying as an attempt to even things out in the rivalry and increases his own efforts to make sure he stays ahead of Finny in the system of comparison he has devised. Gene deplores forgetting the rivalry for even a moment and letting himself fall periodically into affection for Finny again. He guards against the seductive beauty of the summer and actively tries not to be affected by the joyfulness and promise of the days because he knows there is hate around him, and he wants to dwell on that alone. Gene becomes cunning and devious and assumes Finny is as well. He attends the Suicide Society meetings because he doesn’t want Finny to understand him the same way he understands Finny. Gene doesn’t want to be excelled at jumping off the tree, but he believes that outward contests don’t matter since he and Finny are the same on the inside with their “lonely, selfish ambition.” Gene believes Finny is just acting when he looks like he does not know what is wrong with him when he tells him Leper is about to jump, but Finny slowly proves to him that he is sincere and honestly doesn’t take things as seriously as he does. Finny casually tells Gene not to go to the tree if he has other things to do, a thought which never occurred to Gene, for whom everything important takes place internally, so much so that he often cannot formulate plans for outward action. Gene is horrified when he realizes his mistake. The fear brought on by the ensuing doubt of his own understanding is worse even than that of the tree; Gene thinks he must have been utterly wrong in his opinion of Finny and decides Finny is much better than him on the inside. Gene climbs the tree completely stunned by his revelation and feels that nothing matters at all. When he jostles the limb, the narrative reveals no direct motivation or even intention; it is somewhat ambiguous as to whether he shook the limb on purpose or accidentally. The narrative generally reflects only what Gene thinks at the present moment in the story in this chapter, without much guidance from Gene’s older self as the narrator. This allows the reader to believe along with Gene that Finny is a selfish, conniving back-stabber and also leaves one of the central questions of the novel, whether or not Gene intended to hurt Finny, open to interpretation. An important theme in the book begins to come out in this chapter, that of transformation. The first transformation in this chapter comes as Finny reminds Gene of Lazarus, a Biblical character brought back to life by the touch of Christ, as he lies on the beach and wakes from a deathly sleep. More subtle transformations are that of Finny’s friendship into betrayal and enmity and the transformation that occurs when Gene projects his own envy and bitter competitiveness onto Finny. All these transformations occur entirely in Gene’s perception, but they generally result in real transformations of Gene’s attitude and behavior. Finny’s leg is shattered. Everyone speaks about Finny’s injury to Gene in the days following, but no one suspects him of any wrongdoing. Gene spends an increasing amount of time alone in his room. One day, he decides to put on Finny’s shoes, pants, and pink shirt; when he looks in the mirror, he sees himself as Finny and feels relieved. The feeling of transformation lasts through the night but is gone in the morning, and Gene is confronted once more with what he has done to Finny. That morning at chapel, Dr. Stanpole tells him Finny is feeling better and could use a visit. He says his leg will recover enough for him to walk again, but he will no longer be able to play sports. Gene bursts into tears, and the doctor tries to comfort him and tells him he must be strong for Finny. He says Finny asked to see him specifically, and Gene concludes that he must want to accuse him to his face. Gene goes in to see Finny and asks him what happened at the tree. Finny says something made him lose his balance and he looked over to him to see if he could reach him. Gene recoils violently and accuses Finny of wanting to drag him down, too. Finny explains calmly that he just wanted to keep from falling. Gene says that he tried to catch hold of him, but he was gone too fast. Finny tells him he has the same shocked expression now that he did on the tree. Gene asks if he remembers what made him fall, and Finny hints that he had a vague notion that Gene had caused it, but he refuses to accept this and apologizes for even considering it. Gene realizes that if Finny were in his position, he would tell the truth. He rises quickly and tells Finny he has something terrible to say to him, but just then Dr. Stanpole comes in and sends him away. The next day, the doctor decides Finny is not well enough to receive visitors, and soon after he is taken by ambulance to his home outside Boston. The Summer Session ends and Gene goes home for a month’s vacation. In September, Gene starts for Devon by train and is delayed considerably. He catches a taxi at Boston’s South Station, but instead of taking it to North Station for the last leg of the trip to Devon, he goes to Finny’s house. He finds Finny propped up before a fireplace with hospital-type pillows. Finny is pleased (although not surprised) to see him and asks what happened to him down south. Gene tells him a humorous story, and then he says that he was thinking about him and his accident on the trip. He tells Finny that he deliberately shook the limb to make him fall. Finny refuses to believe him. Gene realizes he has injured him further with his confession and that he must take it back, but he cannot do it there. Finny says he will be back at school by Thanksgiving. Gene tries to take back his comments by saying he has had a long trip and has not slept much. Finny tells him not to worry about it, and Gene makes an amiable exit. The masters seem particularly affected by Finny’s tragedy and feel it is especially unfair for someone young who can still enjoy a measure of peace and happiness during the War. Gene feels intense guilt for Finny’s fall, as he believes he shook the branch on purpose. No one shows any suspicion of him, so he does not develop the strength to defend himself from any accusations (including his own). He believes Finny must know that his fall was not accidental, but is just too sick or too noble to tell anyone it was Gene’s fault. Gene is still reeling from the force of his revelation that Finny was never his rival, and he feels that he does not know Finny at all. He does not realize the extent of Finny’s injury or its implications for the rest of his life, and he is crushed when Dr. Stanpole tells him how serious it is. He goes in to see Finny, still fully expecting him to accuse of him shaking the limb. He feels cornered as he talks to Finny and reacts defensively to everything he says. Finny, in his drugged state, reveals that he remembers the events of the day perfectly and knows enough to suspect the truth, but because he is not sure, he rejects the unfavorable explanation that Gene maliciously shook him off the tree. He actually apologizes for suspecting the truth, and Gene sees that he is making up a new commandment for himself never to accuse a friend of a crime without solid evidence. This contrasts completely with Gene’s unspoken accusation and conviction of Finny as a duplicitous friend before, and he realizes painfully how ludicrous it was for him ever to think Finny suffered from the same shortcomings that he does. Gene wonders what Finny would do in his situation and decides he would confess everything, and he starts to do exactly that until Dr. Stanpole enters and stops him. As a result of this interruption, the incident does not close for Gene, and he cannot move on with his life. He senses time suspended with the close of the Summer Session, and he feels detached and uninterested at home. He again experiences a loss of agency when he goes to Finny’s house, as he intends to go to North Station but hears himself give Finny’s address instead (this passage is much like the scene on the tree, when Gene says his knees bent instead of saying he bent his knees to jostle the tree). To Gene, Finny’s house seems intimately connected with his character. Gene is extremely concerned about the atmosphere of the place and finds it difficult to break into talk about the tree incident after Finny has drawn him into his friendly, congenial aura. Gene wishes he had met Finny in some impersonal setting like a train station to make his confession. He fears the confession would be even more damaging in this highly personal setting, that it would tear apart the atmosphere of the place and seem too unreal to be accepted. He chooses an impersonal, antique chair to sit in for his announcement to distance himself as much as possible from Finny’s intimate environment. Gene thinks for a moment that Finny’s anger at his confession reveals something true about him and helps him know himself better, but Finny disagrees; this theme of knowing oneself surfaces repeatedly in the book. Finny refuses to believe Gene’s confession, and his refusal makes Gene start to doubt his story himself. Gene realizes that confronting Finny with the facts of his betrayal is a worse injury than the physical one, and tries to back out by negating what he has said with excuses about exhaustion from his trip. Finny readily accepts his excuses and recovers somewhat from the shock. Gene returns to the theme of the importance of place and decides he can only fully make amends for this new injury in the impersonal atmosphere of the school, not in Finny’s home. Gene departs on friendly terms with Finny again and promises not to start living by the rules (he reflects later that this is the biggest lie of all the lies he told that day). The theme of transformation pervades this chapter. Finny seems older and more mature when Gene comes to see him at home, and he also seems to have been changed from his former, athletic self (a persona which endured even at the Infirmary after he had already been crippled) into an invalid. A more explicit transformation takes place at the beginning of the chapter as Gene dresses up in Finny’s clothes and feels like he has become Finny. This gives him an intense feeling of relief, as he no longer has to deal with the confusions of his own character. Gene gradually fuses with Finny over the course of the book, so this scene is especially significant. Later, when he makes his decision to confess his crime, he does so because he thinks that is what Finny would do- -he is trying to shape his behavior to fit Finny’s character. This chapter also introduces the theme of illusions and their usefulness. Gene’s illusion that he has become Finny gives him a temporary respite, and Finny’s illusion that Gene has done nothing to hurt him (which becomes more pronounced as the story progresses) protects him from severe psychological damage. His violent reaction to Gene’s attempt to dispel this illusion foreshadows serious consequences that come at the climax of the novel. Gene sits at the first chapel service of the school year and observes that despite minor changes for the War, the school is back to normal, with all its usual austerity. He lives in the same room he shared with Finny over the summer. The room across the hall, which belonged to Leper over the summer, now houses Brinker Hadley, a dominant personage on campus. Gene starts to go across the hall, but he suddenly decides he does not want to see Brinker. He realizes he is late for an afternoon appointment at the Crew House on the lower river. On his way, he stops on the footbridge on top of the dam separating the upper Devon River from the lower Naguamsett River and thinks of Finny balancing himself on the prow of a canoe on the river. Gene has taken the thankless position of assistant senior crew manager and has to work for Cliff Quackenbush. After practice is over, Quackenbush quizzes Gene on why he is just starting to manage as a senior and begins to insult him, assuming he must be disabled. Gene punches him and they start to fight and fall into the river. Gene pulls himself out and Quackenbush tells him not to come back. As Gene walks home, he meets Mr. Ludsbury, the master in charge of his dormitory, who berates him for taking advantage of the summer substitute and engaging in illegal activities. Mr. Ludsbury tells him he has a long-distance phone call; he enters the master’s study and finds it is from Finny. Finny asks about the room and is relieved when Gene tells him he saved it for him. He asks about sports and throws a fit when Gene tells him he is trying to be assistant crew manager. Finny tells Gene that he has to play sports for him, and Gene feels relieved to think he must be meant to become a part of Finny. The administrators stress the continuity of the school at the first chapel service, and the masters look like they never left and the casual Summer Session never took place. Gene knows it did, though, that he and his friends had a happy, carefree, delightfully sinful summer, and that memory takes on special significance for him. Gene seeks out the company of others who shared his “gypsy summer” and sees those who were not present as outsiders on some level. Brinker Hadley, for instance, the year’s dominant student, would normally have attracted Gene as the center of attention and activity, but now Gene hesitates to go see him. He misses Leper’s dreaminess and calm hobbies of the summer. Finny was the only leader during the summer, and it was pleasantly anarchic as a result. All that ended when he fell from the tree and vindicated Devon’s rules and customary sternness. Now the school is back to its usual winter structure, and class politicians like Brinker run things. Gene sees the two rivers on campus as symbolic of Devon’s dual nature. The fresh, calm, fun-loving Devon represents the Summer Session, while the salty, ugly, unpredictable Naguamsett (into which the Devon flows), which is joined to the sea and controlled by the large, global forces of the tides, represents the regular school year. The Devon River reminds Gene of a trick Finny loved to do, in which he balanced on the prow of a canoe on one foot and seemed transformed for a moment into a graceful river god. The remembrance of Finny and his former poise refreshes Gene. Gene tries to lose himself in some unassuming manager position to skirt his athletics requirement. He feels as if the doctor was talking about him as well as Finny when he said no more sports (another instance of the fusion of the two). His position as assistant crew manager is normally taken by a disabled boy who can’t do anything more athletic, so Quackenbush assumes he must be crippled. Gene thinks to himself that he is in a way, but Quackenbush will never be able to see how. Gene sympathizes with Quackenbush and understands why he is the way he is, but he is angered by his ignorance of the summer’s glories and his loss, and his incapacity to know and feel and share like Finny did. When Quackenbush calls Gene maimed, he reacts as if he really is, and then he realizes that someone else is maimed and begins to act as Finny’s defender, although he feels afterwards that the fight was at least as much for himself as it was for Finny. Finny is relieved when he calls to hear he will still be Gene’s roommate and takes this as a sign that their friendship is still firm and a repudiation of Gene’s crazy words when he came to visit. Finny apologizes for ever thinking their friendship was in doubt. When he tells Gene he will have to play sports for him, Gene feels an incredible freedom in losing part of himself to Finny. He feels he is destined to become a part of Finny (a particularly explicit example of the theme of transformation). Brinker comes across the hall to see Gene and congratulates him on his influence in getting such a large room all to himself. Gene becomes agitated at Brinker’s joking accusation that he purposely fixed it so Finny would not be back to share his room. He tries to play along with the joke and says nervously that the truth will out, then suggests a smoke in the Butt Room. Brinker pretends the Butt Room is a dungeon and announces to the others there that he has brought a prisoner accused of killing his roommate. Gene’s protests catch everyone’s attention, and he sees he has no choice but to play along. He tries to make an overblown, obviously joking confession, but he chokes when he gets to the part about pushing Finny out of the tree, so he leaves it to a younger boy who takes the matter seriously to reconstruct the end. He ridicules the boy’s conclusion and directs attention away from himself. Then he excuses himself to go study his French, without having a smoke. The boys get paid to pick apples and shovel snow for the railroad to alleviate some wartime labor shortages. On his way to the train station to go shovel snow, Gene finds Leper in the middle of a meadow cross-country skiing. Leper says he is looking for a beaver dam on the Devon River and invites Gene to come see it sometime if he finds it. Gene works on the same team as Brinker and Chet Douglass, but the work is dull and arduous. They shovel out the main line and cheer as a troop train continues on its way. On the train home, the boys talk only of the war and their eagerness to get to it. Quackenbush says he will finish school before going off to be a soldier, as he wants to take full advantage of the physical hardening program, and the other boys accuse him of being an enemy spy. When they arrive back at Devon, they find Leper coming back from his expedition to the beaver dam. Gene narrowly averts Brinker’s temper from flaring up on Leper, and as they walk away, Brinker tells Gene he is tired of school and wants to enlist tomorrow. Gene feels a thrill at the thought of leaving his old life to join the military, and that night he sits under the stars and decides to enlist himself. When he returns to his room, however, he finds Finny there and forgets about the rest of the day. Gene likes Brinker in spite of his Winter Session ways, but his joke makes him extremely nervous. His anxiety attracts attention and threatens to turn Brinker’s prank into an interrogation, which foreshadows the mock tribunal at the novel’s climax. Gene mentions the many masks that Devon students wear in public to disguise their inner thoughts and feelings (as well to reveal them, to some extent). His own mask of innocence is somewhat transparent, causing more suspicion than it dispels. Gene worries when someone notices that he is not smoking despite coming all the way to the Butt Room, but no one gives the matter any further attention. The boys feel the War’s influence strongly in this chapter; their patriotism runs high and they are all eager to enlist. Gene says the War creeps into their lives subtly like the snow that year, which falls playfully and then disappears before coming on in full force. The War is just a bore at first, in Brinker’s words, but it suddenly seems very real and immediate for the boys when they see the troops passing by on the train. Brinker and the other boys scorn Leper’s gentle, naturalistic hobbies and Quackenbush’s patience, and they chafe at the seeming futility of their studies. Brinker even scorns his own activities as a class politician (yet another transformation). Gene is excited by the possibility of breaking away from his old life to start over in the military. He is tired of the complexities he has woven into his life and yearns for the simplicity and homogeneity of the military. He knows it will not be a good life, but he accepts a tinge of morbidity in everything he loves, and when it is not there (as with Finny) he puts it there himself. The appeal of the War for him is that the dangers are all clear. He has been waiting for someone else to voice the idea of enlisting, and he quickly follows along with Brinker’s plan. Gene’s ideas of the importance of place appear again as he considers his options under the cold, unromantic, northern stars, which seem made for hard decisions (as opposed to the dreamy, nostalgic stars of his home in the south). Gene decides he does not want to watch the War slowly chip away at what remains of the peace of the Devon summer (emphasizing the importance of place, again); he would rather face the crisis of the War right away at some other location. He feels he owes nothing to anyone and is free to enlist whenever he chooses. Then Finny appears, and the encroachment of the military abruptly falls away, like the first snowfall of winter. Finny uses crutches and accepts Gene’s help in making up his bed. The next morning, Brinker bursts in and starts to ask if Gene is ready to enlist before he sees Finny there. They tell Finny about Brinker’s idea, and his unenthusiastic reaction lets Gene know that he does not want him to leave. Gene tells Brinker, to Finny’s obvious relief, that he no longer wants to enlist, and they drop the idea. As Gene and Finny make their way through the ice to their first class, Finny suggests they cut class to give him a chance to see the school. They set out immediately across campus for the gym. They go down to the locker room, and Finny asks Gene what team he joined. Gene tells him he did not try out for any teams and starts to give him an excuse about the diminished importance of sports during the War. Finny declares that there is no war, it is all a hoax orchestrated by the adult establishment to keep young people in their place. Gene asks why only he can see through this trick, and Finny replies it is because he has suffered, an answer that surprises them both. An awkward silence follows, and Gene, reaching for some appropriate gesture, goes over to the exercise bar and begins doing chin-ups. Finny tells him to do thirty and directs him with his voice as he counts them. Finny tells Gene he wanted to be an Olympic athlete, and that now he will have to train him to go in his place. Finny convinces him to go along with his plan despite his objections that the war will preempt the Olympics in 1944. Finny begins to train Gene, and Gene tutors Finny in his classes; they are both surprised by their progress. One morning, as Gene runs a course around the headmaster’s house under Finny’s guidance, he suddenly finds his stride and breaks through his former limitations. Mr. Ludsbury comes out to see what they are doing, and Finny tells him Gene is training for the Olympics. Ludsbury tells them to remember that all athletic training should be toward preparing for the War, and Finny says flatly, “No.” This response flusters Ludsbury, who mutters something and leaves. Finny muses that he seemed sincere about his belief in the War and concludes he must be too thin to be let in on the hoax; Gene agrees with Finny’s reasoning. Gene says he realizes for the first time at the beginning of this chapter that the morning renews nothing and that sleep is merely a suspension of the problems of the previous day. Finny does not accept this, and Gene imagines him waking up every day and checking if his leg perhaps has been restored during the night. This chapter develops Finny’s reliance on Gene, and Gene’s more abstract reliance on Finny. Finny’s confusion and distance upon hearing Gene’s plans to enlist indicates his hope that Gene will stay. Finny’s need for Gene gives Gene a sense of purpose and causes him to stop seeing the War as destroying the peace of the Devon summer, as it has returned for him with Finny. For a brief time, the War slips into the background. Seeing Finny hobbling about on crutches makes Finny think about how lightly and gracefully he used to walk and realize painfully that he will never be able to walk like that again. Finny’s spirits seem undamaged, though, and he insists that he loves the winter despite the hardships it brings upon him. Finny often pauses outside a building to gather his strength before entering it in order to keep up the illusion of his vitality, but Gene can always recognize his weakness. When Finny suggests they go to the gym, Gene thinks he wants to brood over the trophies that bear his name there, but he passes by them without a thought and heads for the locker room to soak up the ambiance of athleticism. Finny reveals that he still expects Gene to be a star in his place and allows his bitterness to show. Gene can think of no appropriate reply to Finny’s words, so he silently offers to take his place by going over to the exercise bar. The increasing urgency in Finny’s voice goads Gene on to complete the chin-ups. Finny is even more surprised than Gene to discover the anger within him; neither ever mentions it again, but they never forget its presence. Finny insists his suffering has given him greater insight than most people his age, enough to see through the haze of the War. Finny’s thoughts and beliefs may not be true, but Gene feels they should be, so he generally does not argue with them. Gene does not believe Finny because of his schoolboy fear of being “taken in,” but still his illusory peace appeals to him as an incredible joke if it were true, and he feels that the school chaplain’s view of the War, for one, is just as unreal as Finny’s. Finny’s insistence that there is no war begins to affect Gene, as the war consists mainly of mental impressions for him, and he can believe in the War only with effort. Finny seems changed as he trains Gene for his illusory Olympics; he seems older, smaller, and impersonal. Finny interprets Gene’s discovery of his physical potential as an act of getting to know himself; he declares that Gene knew nothing about himself before. Finny has also changed in his response to authority. Whereas before he would have tried to charm Mr. Ludsbury into letting him have his way, now he flatly refuses to listen to him with his new mature tone. Mr. Ludsbury cannot deal with this breach of obedience and removes himself from the scene. Gene feels a profound inner peace as he trains with Finny, and he sometimes finds it hard to truly believe in the widespread confusion of the War anymore. Leper Lepellier enlists to everyone’s surprise in January, but this only makes the War seem even more unreal to Gene. Later, Brinker starts the running joke that Leper must be behind any Allied victory. Finny refuses to take part in these jokes, and as they dominate the conversation in the Butt Room, both he and Gene stop going there. He pulls Gene further and further away from his other friends until he spends all his time with him training for the Olympics. One day, Finny decides to have a Winter Carnival and starts assigning tasks. Brinker organizes the transfer of equipment from the dormitory to a park on the Naguamsett and has his mousy roommate Brownie Perkins guard several jugs of hard cider buried in the snow. They arrange a little ski jump, snow statues, and prizes, and Chet Douglass provides music on his trumpet. As the carnival begins, the other boys wrestle the cider away from Brinker at Finny’s prompting and break into anarchical carousing. Everyone seems intoxicated with cider and life itself, especially Finny, who performs a wild yet graceful dance on the prize table on his one good leg. Finny announces the beginning of the decathlon and has Gene demonstrate various feats of athleticism for the appreciative crowd. Brownie reappears from the dormitory with a telegram for Gene from Leper that says he has escaped and his safety depends on his coming at once to his Christmas location. Leper’s enlistment surprises everyone, although it is a logical step for him, as he is about to turn 18 and be drafted (and lose the option to pick the branch of the military he will serve). All the boys are looking for a friendly facet of the War to cling to, and Leper’s comes in the form of a recruiting film for the ski troops. They appear very clean and natural in the film, as if tailored to Leper’s rural Vermont sensibilities. Leper’s talk of the necessity of progress and evolution surprises Gene, who wonders how it applies to him and Finny and all the others. Leper is the only person not to declare his intention to enlist with great fanfare, and he is also the only one who is really serious and actually does enlist. Gene thinks it would have been better for someone like Brinker to leave for the War, someone who would leave a noticeable gap in their lives to bring the War close to home; Leper’s absence was not as apparent and did nothing to make the effects of war seem more familiar. Gene does not really believe Finny’s story that the War is a hoax, but he finds it hard to make any personal connection with the War because of his continued peace and happiness, which stands in direct opposition to his expectations of the confusion of the world at large. Joking about Leper as a major force in the Allied command is the only way for the boys to make the War seem close and personal. The boys secretly fear what lies hidden within them: they are afraid they will not succeed as soldiers, so the thought that Leper could shine so brilliantly comforts them and gives them hope that they might too. Finny stands outside this circle of concern (he even forgets at one point that Leper is gone), and draws Gene away with him into isolation. In the depths of winter, when the weather has frozen everyone else’s spirits, Finny decides to extend his personal reality to the others for a while. At Devon, only those with a certain edginess and capacity for rudeness are said to have “personality,” a requirement for any sort of leadership position. Only Finny is able to lead without it, and when everyone else is disillusioned and lethargic (Brinker has resigned his leadership positions and fallen into casual carelessness), Finny brings them together to hold the carnival. Finny showcases here his talent for creating blissful chaos. The carnival is completely chaotic, and even “Brinker the Lawgiver” turns rebel with Gene’s conspiratorial glance. Everyone becomes wistful and carefree during Finny’s afternoon of “momentary, illusory, special and separate peace.” Gene immediately sets out for Leper’s “Christmas location,” meaning his home in Vermont. He takes a train and then a bus, arrives in Leper’s town early the next morning, and then has to walk the rest of the way through the snow to Leper’s house. Leper stands at the window and beckons Gene on as he approaches, then bustles him into the dining room. Leper tells Gene that he deserted because the army was planning to give him a Section Eight discharge for insanity, which he says would prevent him from ever finding work or leading a normal life. Gene insults Leper, and Leper accuses him of knocking Finny out of the tree. Gene kicks Leper’s chair over, and his mother rushes into the room and explains that he is ill. Leper invites Gene to stay for lunch, and he does. At his mother’s suggestion, Leper goes for a walk with Gene after lunch. Leper suddenly begins sobbing and tells Gene of his odd hallucinations at training camp, and eventually Gene cannot take any more and runs away. Gene digresses in his narrative at the beginning of this chapter to tell how he never got to the War–he joined just as the war was wrapping up and spent his time bouncing between cities in the United States. He would have been involved in the invasion of Japan (and probably killed) had it not been for the atomic bomb. He thinks of his dream- like trip to Leper’s house as the first of his wartime journeys. Gene concocts a farfetched story about spies to explain Leper’s telegram and hopes that Leper does not mean he escaped from the army; he still wants the War to be interesting. The characteristic of Leper’s environment that affects Gene most is cold; he calls the Vermont countryside in winter a “death landscape.” The houses in this place are havens of warmth and life. Gene compares the trees and buildings to the people of the region, noting their strength and rigidity. Leper accepts Gene’s presence without a greeting, as usual. Leper shows his concern with the idea of place as much as Gene when he explains that dining rooms are useful and safe, but people get into trouble in living rooms because they do not know what to do with themselves (Gene adds that they also get into trouble in bedrooms). Gene notices Leper’s lip-twitch, which he interprets as a sign that Leper is no longer the person he remembers. Leper has changed dramatically; he seems frightened of his own fury and has lost his protective layer of courtesy. He says he is only concerned with himself now and owes nothing to anyone (which recalls the phrase Gene used to justify enlisting, only now Leper uses it to justify deserting). Leper is violently opposed to Gene’s use of the word “normal” and accuses him of thinking he’s “psycho.” Gene fears this word because it is unfamiliar and seems more serious than the synonyms he generally uses. More than anything else, this word crystallizes the situation for him and makes him frightened of what the army has done to Leper and what it will do to him. Leper’s insanity gives him considerable freedom to speak his mind. He calls Gene arrogant, undependable, and savage, and says he is admitting a lot more to himself now, as he no longer needs to please anyone. Leper apparently has always thought Gene was guilty of shaking Finny out of the tree but never said anything because courtesy constrained him. Now that courtesy has fallen away, he accuses Gene outright. Gene instinctively lashes out at Leper, and then stays for lunch out of shame. As he walks along with Leper, Gene believes on some primitive level that the snowy field will never be able to produce any living thing again; he believes also that Leper cannot really be crazy. Leper eventually satisfies Gene’s desire to know the facts of his case, but as in other incidents in the book, the facts prove to be more harmful than useful. Gene shows once again that he is uncomfortable with bare emotion when Leper bursts out crying. Transformations play an important role in the end of this chapter. Leper’s psychosis focuses on transformations: Brinker’s head on a woman’s body, the arm of a chair changing into a human arm, the corporal’s face transforming into a woman’s face, the broom changing into a leg, etc. These illusory transformations result from the more tangible transformations of army life, which for Leper include not being able to sleep in bed but sleeping everywhere else, and not feeling hungry at the Mess Hall but feeling hungry everywhere else. Leper describes these transformations as inversions, turning familiar things inside out, and relates them to his expectation that the coughing man in the bed next to his will cough up his insides. Transformations also play a role in driving Gene away from Leper, as the sounds of cracking ice become the sound of distant rifles for him (since he is thinking of himself taking Leper’s place in the War, another transformation), and he becomes agitated with Leper’s story because of its possible implications for him, which he outwardly denies as he runs away but inwardly recognizes as real. This confrontation destroys once and for all any romantic notions Gene has held about the War. Gene returns to Devon and finds Finny in the midst of a snowball fight he has organized. Gene hesitates at joining the fight, but Finny draws him in. Later, Gene asks Finny, who now uses a walking cast, if he is allowed to participate in such strenuous activities, and Finny says he thinks he can feel his bones getting stronger. Gene is quite relieved upon hearing this news. Brinker comes to visit Gene and Finny in their room and asks about Leper. Gene tells him Leper has changed, and that he has deserted the army. Brinker immediately surmises that he cracked under the pressures of army life, and laments having two people in his class already sidelined by the War. Gene realizes he is including Finny and tries to gloss over the implication by saying there is no war, hoping Finny will take up his story and elaborate on the hoax. Finny agrees that there is no war in an uncharacteristically ironic tone, and lays to rest his personal explanation of world events, including the possibility of holding the 1944 Olympic games. Time passes, and all the eligible boys take steps toward enlisting in some relatively safe branch of the military except for Gene. One day, Brinker takes him aside and tells him he knows he has not enlisted because he pities Finny. He says they should confront Finny about his injury casually whenever possible to make him accept it. Then he says it would be best for Gene to have the matter resolved and forgotten, as no one is really sure what happened on the tree, except possibly Gene. Later that morning, Gene reads to Finny part of a translation of Caesar’s Gallic War that he has done for him, and Finny says he does not believe in Caesar, but he must believe in Gene. He says he had to admit the War was real when Gene told him Leper had gone crazy because of it. He tells him he did not accept his description of Leper completely at first, but that it was confirmed when he saw him hiding in the bushes after Chapel. They realize they can’t do anything about Leper now, and they burst out laughing.