A Separate Peace is thought to be a memoir of the author himself, set during the heart of World War Two, and the aftermath of those years. The protagonist, Gene Forrester, a seemingly happy boy, hides fear and paranoia within. His best friend and the antagonist of the story, Finny, is his greatest competition. Throughout their years at school together, they become inseparable. But, as their friendship grows deeper, Gene’s paranoia grows with it. Finny is the schools top athlete and is loved and known by everyone.
As the story progresses, Gene becomes something of his side-kick.
Although this may be happening, Gene only thinks Finny is trying to get closer to him in order to ruin his athletic and academic career at the school.
During the summer of their first year together, they form the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session. Initiation into this club involved jumping from a tree limb into a small river. The two boys are the first to do this of everyone at the school. During the summer session, the boys decide to make the jump together. Upon climbing onto the limb Finny tells Gene to jump first.
As Finny is about to jump, he loses his balance, but Gene catches him and practically saves his life. During the next summer session, they decide to jump together again. This time, Finny walks out to the end first. He too begins to lose his balance, but this time because Gene purposefully “jounced the limb. ” One can see he did this purposefully due to three key reasons.
Firstly, their competition between each other and Genes obvious envy towards Finny. Secondly, the way eyewitnesses and Gene himself describe the situation. And lastly, Genes confession to Finny the year after.
Finny’s athleticism is really the only thing that differentiates the two. This difference between them makes Finny the better and more “gifted” student at Devon. The thought that somehow taking away this talent of Finny’s would also take away the difference between them, making Gene the more gifted student at Devon, must have cross Gene’s mind multiple times. Because of their good friendship, one would like to think that he hadn’t planned to make the thought a reality, and he acted, subconsciously, upon an opportunity only because it presented itself. From a young age people are taught to compete.
The point of competition is to perform better than others. Ones adversaries try their hardest to be the best and one tries and performs better. In attempting to perform better, one will take any advantage they are presented with; ie cheating. This philosophy is the primary reason for Gene’s envy of Finny. He is jealous of Finny throughout the whole book. This fact would lead one to believe he has motive to injure Finny. Right before he “jounced the limb” Gene remarks two things. “None of this mattered now; I listlessly would have agreed to anything. ” He then goes on to describe his actions. Holding firmly to the trunk, I took a step towards him, and then my knees bent and I jounced the limb. ” The former quote shows his ability and disparity to show everyone that Finny is merely human, nothing more, just like everyone else. Listlessly, he says, he would have agreed to do anything. Without any thought or premeditation, he would have done anything to disprove Finny. The latter quote simply shows the aggressive action he took to prove himself and prove the former quote. The next year, Gene blurts out a confession to Finny about wanting to push him. He really had to.
Ironically, Finny always really knew the truth, but it was always swept under the carpet, so to speak, and replaced with cryptic suggestions about what might have happened. Gene’s guilt was obviously too much. More than that Gene felt an open confession, without any excuses, was needed for some kind of cleansing. In conclusion, we can see that all evidence points to Gene purposefully jouncing the limb. The competition between the two boys, the way eyewitnesses described the situation, and Gene’s obvious confession of guilt to Finny all reveal the truth behind his actions. There is absolutely no way to prove that Gene was not to blame.