A Separate Peace
by John Knowles
A Separate Peace Chapter 12 Summary
- Gene relates all the following events as pure fact. He doesn't tell us what he's thinking, just that "everyone behaved with complete presence of mind" as they keep Phineas still and rush for Dr. Stanpole and Phil Latham, the wrestling coach. Finally, Phineas is carried out on a chair.
- Gene has a hard time watching Phineas being carried aloft – probably because Finny was always helping others, never being helped himself. He realizes that Finny never took assistance from anyone except for him (for Gene), probably because he thought of Gene as an extension of his own being.
- As the crowd is exiting, Gene turns to Dr. Stanpole for the news. The Doctor reports that he broke the leg again, but that it's a very clean fracture this time (as opposed to the "shattering" from before).
- Along with the other boys, Gene is ordered back to his room. But instead of dutifully returning to the dorm, Gene hides in the darkness outside the infirmary. He crouches in the bushes below the window of Phineas's room. Inside, Phil Latham, Dr. Stanpole, and the night nurse are tending to Finny.
- As he waits and listens, Gene suddenly becomes John Stewart. Everything is a joke. He makes little cracks to himself about what Phil must be saying to Finny, and the humorous responses Finny might have in return.
- Once the medics are gone and Finny is alone, Gene calls Finny's name and begins to climb in the window.
- Far from welcoming his friend, Phineas flips out. "You want to break something else in me!" he yells. "Is that why you're here?"
- Gene begins to apologize, saying he wants to help, but Finny is having none of it. So Gene leaves, out the window.
- Once outside, Gene wanders around the campus. He sees the Devon gym, but it looks different to him, as though he has "double vision." The buildings and fields all seem to be speaking to him, though he can't decipher any of their messages. He feels as though he's a ghost – not just now, but that he's been a ghost all his time at Devon. He cannot hear, he says, because he does not exist. Gene falls asleep against the stadium wall.
- When he makes it back to his room the next morning, Gene finds a note from Dr. Stanpole asking him to bring some of Finny's clothes to the Infirmary.
- As he heads over, Gene feels as though he's lived through all this before. (Finny in the Infirmary, Gene feeling guilty…yep, sounds familiar to us.) It's just that things are different now – the environment is worse, what with the war and Leper being crazy. Maybe, thinks Gene, Finny is just a casualty. Maybe these accidents don't mean much in the context of the world's difficulties.
- When Gene arrives, Finny is alone in his room. Gene starts to explain, reminding Finny that he tried to confess, earlier, outside of Boston.
- Finny cuts him off, asking why Gene came by last night. "I thought I belonged here," he answers.
- All Finny can do is look at Gene and wish, aloud, that there wasn't any war. He says that he could deal with all this, if only there wasn't a war on. He says he's been writing letters everywhere, trying to figure out if he can be in the war with his busted leg. He says he'll hate it everywhere if he can't, knowing that he's missing out.
- But Gene argues with him, telling Finny that he would be useless in the war – not because of the busted leg, but because he doesn't understand fighting. To him, it's just one big game. He'd probably make friends and start a baseball team with the enemy, Gene explains.
- Finny returns to talking about the tree incident, asking Gene if it was just some "blind impulse" that made him jounce the branch. Gene agrees that this is all it was, something "blind" and "crazy." Finny believes him.
- Gene leaves the Infirmary and is told to come back at 5 when Finny should be coming out of surgery. When he does, however, Dr. Stanpole is waiting, looking rather grim.
- Dr. Stanpole tells Gene that this is something his generation will see a lot of. "Your friend is dead," he says.
- He explains how a piece of marrow from Finny's leg must have gotten loose and traveled along his blood stream to the heart.
- Gene does not cry, nor does he ever cry about Phineas after, the narrator explains, even at the funeral. He couldn't help but feel that it was somehow his own funeral, "and you do not cry in that case."
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