Phineas Vs. Gene Essay, Research Paper
An analysis of the rivalry of Phineas and Gene.
From the novel, A Separate Peace by John Knowles.
Phineas world was a very beautiful thing to him. A world where war was a work of art, painted so perfectly in his mind. He was full of views and ideas that were perfect in subject, but realistically unachievable. Gene was a Smart, intelligent boy. Every thing was completely real to him. School was very important. When he played sports, someone always lost, nobody always won in his mind. Gene, in his realism was somewhat drawn to Finny though, almost like he envied his idealistic theories.
In the early pages of A Separate Peace, Finny confesses that Gene is his best friend. It is considered a courageous act for the students at Devon to expose emotion. And rather than Gene venturing back with similar affection, he holds back and says nothing. Gene can t handle the fact that Finny is so compassionate, so perfect. In order to protect himself from accepting Finny s compassion and risking emotional pain, Gene creates a silent rivalry with Finny, convincing himself that Finny is deliberately attempting to ruin his studies. Gene decides that the two are jealous of each other. After that, there friendship starts to turn somewhat cold.
Gene becomes disgusted with himself after weeks of the silent rivalry. He finally discovers the truth, that Finny only wants the best for Gene, and had no unfavorable intentions. This creates a huge conflict for Gene; not being able to deal with Finny s purity and his own darkness. On this very day Finny wants to jump off of the tree branch into the Devon river at the same time as Gene, a “double jump”, he says, as a way of bonding. It was this decision, caused by Finny s affection for Gene and outgoing ways that resulted in drastic change for the rest of his life. Once up on the limb, without warning, Gene s misunderstanding of his own identity and confusion towards Finny s behavior explodes. He jounces the limb, sending Finny flailing to the bank below. At this point Gene feels extreme freedom from the web of rivalry that he has been living in. He even feels somewhat good inside. Gene also learns that he is capable of greater evil than he has ever imagined.
The act of Gene causing Finny to fall from the tree, shattering one of his leg bones, was one of brutal betrayal, inhumanity, and selfishness. Yet it was one of nature as well. Gene released all that hostility he had built up that day; he wanted to make Finny more like him I believe. Now Finny could never do any of the active things he loved: sports, swimming, and his other trickery. Coincidently these were things Gene despised Finny for. Later in the novel, Finny shows his understanding for Gene s crime in this paragraph:
“I ve gotten awfully mad sometimes and almost forgotten what I was doing. Something just seized you. It wasn t anything you really felt against me, it wasn t some kind of hate you felt all along. It wasn t anything personal.” In this quote Finny expresses understanding for the idea of man s natural inhumanity to man. Each human has the ability to feel a multitude of emotions at any given time, with or without understandable reason. Sometimes what one needs to feel, whether they are aware of it or not, can take control of their actions. This may be the way that one s subconscious seizes the individual in order for them to learn what they need to learn to satisfy their mind, emotional state, or encourage spiritual growth.
This inhumanity to man is what caused Finny s death. Brinkers need to know all, every detail about the tree. Gene and Finny were realistically incompatible. There relationship was realistically unachievable. There whole existence together seemed like idealism in its self. Gene and Finny s warmness to each other was a fiction. I don t believe that two clashing personalities can exist in one place with out conflict, internal or external. Phineas had a hold over Gene. He grasped Gene s envy tightly in his had without knowing it. He was able to perhaps change Gene in ways Gene didn t want. Expose him to his idealistic thoughts. Perhaps broaden Gene s mind a bit. Gene had an uncontainable hatred for Finny because of it.