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A Separate Peace

A Separate Peace


by John Knowles

Phineas Timeline and Summary

  • Phineas convinces Gene to jump out of the tree into the Devon river after he does it first himself.
  • On the way back to campus, the boys horse around for a bit and miss dinner. That night, they both work on their homework assignments.
  • The next day, Finny talks them out of a punishment for missing dinner.
  • Phineas is a regular Joan Rivers at the afternoon tea and charms the pants off everyone. He even avoids getting in trouble for wearing the school tie as a belt.
  • Gene and Finny go jump off the tree again and form the Super Suicide Society. Up in the tree, Gene stumbles and almost falls until Finny grabs and steadies him.
  • One day, without any practice, Phineas breaks one of the school's swimming records. He makes Gene promise not to tell anyone.
  • Finny talks Gene into going to the beach with him. There, he tells Gene that he's his best friend.
  • Finny is caught completely by surprise to discover that Gene has to study in order to do well in school. He thought academics came as easily to Gene as athletics did to him (to Finny).
  • Because Leper has finally decided to join the Super Suicide Society, Phineas brings him and Gene to the tree. To open the ceremony, he climbs the tree with Gene to do a double jump, loses his balance when Gene jounces the limb, and falls to the ground, shattering his leg.
  • Finny is laid up in the Infirmary when Gene comes to visit. He doesn't suspect his friend of having harmed him.
  • Phineas is taken to his home to rest up for the rest of the summer.
  • In September, when Gene comes to visit, Finny is happy to see him, but not so happy to hear Gene confess about the accident. He lashes out, yelling at Gene, and insists that he leave.
  • Finny calls Gene on the phone, having decided, it appears, to forget about the confession. He tells his friend that, if he cannot play sports, Gene has to play them for him.
  • Finny comes back to campus and is outraged at the thought of Gene leaving to enlist.
  • His first day back, Phineas wants to skip class and walk (or crutch, as the case has it) around the campus. Gene complies, and the boys go to the gym, where Finny checks out the locker room for a bit.
  • Gene is amused by Phineas's "there is no real war" theory. When Phineas makes things awkward by talking about suffering, Gene does some chin-ups, and Finny decides they should train him for the 1944 Olympics.
  • When Mr. Ludsbury later suggests there will be no 1944 Olympics, Finny responds curtly.
  • Finny doesn't go along with the other boys when they imagine Leper partaking in all the big events of the war.
  • Phineas designs a Winter Carnival in which Gene can compete in a variety of pseudo-Olympic events.
  • When Finny hears about Leper's insanity, he admits that the war really exists.
  • Finny and Gene are taken to the Assembly Hall one night after hours for Brinker's "investigation." Finny wants no part of it, but once he is prodded into recounting the event, he begins to get interested. He can't seem to remember where Gene was when he fell.
  • After Leper's testimonial, Finny shouts that he doesn't care and leaves the assembly hall after cursing at Brinker. He then falls down the marble stairs and breaks his leg for the second time.
  • Finny is laid up in the Infirmary when Gene sneaks through his window that night. He wants nothing to do with this guy who has now TWICE, at least indirectly, broken him. He yells at Gene, who promptly leaves.
  • The next time the two boys see each other, Finny has calmed down a bit.
  • The boys are alone long enough to, in short, work out their issues. They conclude that Gene only felt something "blind" and "crazy" up in the tree, and that it was "nothing personal" against Finny.
  • Finny dies in surgery; Gene concludes that what made him different from everyone else was his lack of resentment or fear.