Study Guide

A Separate Peace Quotes

  • Youth

    Chapter 1

    The tree was not only stripped by the cold season, it seemed weary from age, enfeebled, dry. I was thankful, very thankful that I had seen it. So the more things remain the same, the more they change after all—plus c'est la même chose, plus ça change. Nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not even a death by violence (1.19).

    How has the event of Finny's death changed over time, as Gene seems to suggest here?

    Although they were old stairs, the worn moons in the middle of each step were not very deep. The marble must be unusually hard. That seemed very likely, only too likely, although with all my thought about these stairs this exceptional hardness had not occurred to me. It was surprising that I had overlooked that, that crucial fact (1.10).

    Look at the hints the narrator gives us in the early chapters as to what's coming later. His narrative casts a discriminating light on the events of his youth, illuminating only what's most important.

    This was the tree, and it seemed to me standing there to resemble those men, the giants of your childhood, whom you encounter years later and find that they are not merely smaller in relation to your growth, but that they are absolutely smaller, shrunken by age. In this double demotion the old giants have become pigmies while you were looking the other way (1.18).

    Has Gene's view of Phineas similarly changed, or does he still look as a moral and heroic "giant" in Gene's mind?

    Chapter 8
    Phineas

    "What makes you so special? Why should you get it and all the rest of us be in the dark?"

    The momentum of the argument abruptly broke from his control. His face froze. "Because I've suffered," he burst out (8.103-4).

    This questions the notion of Gene growing older and wiser while Finny remains left behind in a world of youth. It reminds us that, in some ways, Finny has learned lessons that Gene has not.

    Gene Forrester

    Now, in this winter of snow and crutches with Phineas, I began to know that each morning reasserted the problems of the night before, that sleep suspended all but changed nothing, that you couldn't make yourself over between dawn and dusk. Phineas however did not believe this. I'm sure that he looked down at his leg every morning first thing, as soon as he remembered it, to see if it had not been totally restored while he slept (8.14).

    Gene has moved on into this new Winter Session, a time of maturity and growth. Finny is absent, so he misses the transition. When he comes back to Devon, he's still in Summer-mode.

    Phineas was a poor deceiver, having had no practice (8.72).

    Finny remains the epitome of youthful naiveté, even after his injury.

    Chapter 10
    Gene Forrester

    I waited for Leper; in this wintery outdoors he loved, to come to himself again. Just as I knew the field could never grow again, I knew that Leper could not be wild or bitter or psycho tramping across the hills of Vermont (10.55).

    Gene repeatedly associates certain places and times with peace or sanity. And yet…he proves to be wrong, as Leper is just as crazy in the snow as he was in the dining room. This is consistent with what we've seen at Devon, too.

    Chapter 12
    Gene Forrester

    I felt him turning to look at me, and so I looked up. He had a particular expression which his face assumed when he understood but didn't think he should show it, a settled, enlightened look; its appearance now was the first decent thing I had seen in a long time.

    He suddenly slammed his fist against the suitcase. "I wish to God there wasn't any war" (12.43-4).

    What Finny hates isn't the war, it's the idea of a world he doesn't fit into. Finny may be all deity-like in the Summer Session at Devon, but he's ill-equipped to deal with the harsh realities of the adult world. And that's what he resents.

    …levels of reality I had never suspected before, a kind of thronging and epic grandeur which my superficial eyes and cluttered mind had been blind to before. They unrolled away impervious to me as though I were a roaming ghost (12.30).

    Gene has moved into the adult world, which means leaving his youth behind. That sense of emergence is reflected here as he considers his old self, his young self, dead.

    Chapter 13
    Gene Forrester

    There is no stage you comprehend better than the one you have just left, and as I watched the Jeeps almost asserting a wish to bounce up the side of Mount Washington at eighty miles an hour instead of rolling along this dull street, they reminded me, in a comical and a poignant way, of adolescents (13.3).

    And there you have it. The transition from peace to war is much like the transition from youth to adulthood. (Just, you know, with fewer pimples.)

  • Rules and Order

    Chapter 1
    Gene Forrester

    "We'd better hurry or we'll be late for dinner," I said, breaking into what Finny called my "West Point stride." Phineas didn't really dislike West Point in particular or authority in general, but just considered authority the necessary evil against which happiness was achieved by reaction, the backboard which returned all the insults he threw at it (1.46).

    Right away, Gene paints a portrait of Finny that pits him against the authority that will later take over in the Winter Session at Devon. But the fight is a friendly, sporting one – that's how Finny competes.

    Chapter 2

    The Devon faculty had never before experienced a student who combined a calm ignorance of the rules with a winning urge to be good, who seemed to love the school truly and deeply, and never more than when he was breaking the regulations […]. The faculty threw up its hands over Phineas, and so loosened its grip on all of us (2.8).

    When Phineas leaves Devon, then, it follows that the masters can again tighten their grip. Which they do.

    Chapter 3
    Gene Forrester

    I noticed something about Finny's own mind, which was such an opposite from mine. It wasn't completely unleashed after all. I noticed that he did abide by certain rules, which he seemed to cast in the form of Commandments. "Never say you are five feet nine when you are five feet eight and a half" was the first one I encountered (3.6).

    What is it that governs Finny's set of rules? Is there any sense of morality or logic to his system?

    We met every night, because Finny's life was ruled by inspiration and anarchy, and so he prized a set of rules. His own, not those imposed on him by other people, such as the faculty of the Devon school. […] We met every night. Nothing could be more regular than that. To meet once a week seemed to him much less regular, entirely too haphazard, bordering on carelessness (3.4).

    Finny's own "set of rules" comes to increasingly govern Gene's outlook and behavior as the novel continues. Even after Finny's death, Gene continues to live by these principles.

    Chapter 5
    Gene Forrester

    "You aren't going to start playing by the rules, are you?"

    I grinned at him. "Oh no, I wouldn't do that," and that was the most false thing of all (5.82-3).

    Following Finny's rebellious lead is one of the ways that Gene shows loyalty to his friend. Without Phineas, he has no reason to transgress.

    Chapter 6
    Gene Forrester

    Still it had come to an end, in the last long rays of daylight at the tree, when Phineas fell. It was forced on me as I sat chilled through the chapel service, that this probably vindicated the rules of Devon after all, wintery Devon. If you broke the rules, then they broke you (6.7).

    This sounds like more justification on Gene's part. It wasn't the rules that broke Phineas; it was Gene.

    Chapter 9

    Brinker the lawgiver had turned rebel for the duration (9.39).

    This is the last straw. Phineas's return to Devon has turned the tables and reversed the transition from summer to winter, peace to war, anarchy to order.

    Chapter 11
    Phineas

    "If a war can drive somebody crazy, then it's real all right. Oh I guess I always knew, but I didn't have to admit it" (11.84).

    Here we see another example of Finny's rules. His fantasy world, in which there was no war or enmity, turned out to be precariously balanced on his delicate system of principles.

    Chapter 12
    Gene Forrester

    "What'd you come around here for last night?"

    "I don't know. […] I had to. […] I thought I belonged here" (12.41-2).

    At Devon, there are rules to govern friendship, too, though they shift as Gene's relationship with Finny evolves.

    My brief animosity, lasting only a second, a part of a second, something which came before I could recognize it and was gone before I knew it had possessed me, what was that in the midst of this holocaust? (12.34).

    As change comes to Devon, even the rules are affected, or so Gene would like to think. Crimes become relative, guilt is redefined.

  • Friendship

    Chapter 1
    Phineas

    "It's you, pal," Finny said to me at last, "just you and me." He and I started back across the fields, preceding the others like two seigneurs.

    We were the best of friends at that moment (1.38-9).

    From the start, Gene's friendship with Finny isolates them from others.

    Gene Forrester

    What was I doing up here anyway? Why did I let Finny talk me into stupid things like this? Was he getting some kind of hold over me? (1.32).

    The notion of equality is important to Gene when he considers his friendship with Finny. Much of his hesitation over jumping has less to do with a fear of dying than a fear of subordination, of blindly following Finny's desires.

    I threw my hip against his, catching him by surprise, and he was instantly down, definitely pleased. This was why he liked me so much. When I jumped on top of him, my knees on his chest, he couldn't ask for anything better. We struggled in some equality for a while, and then when we were sure we were too late for dinner, we broke off (1.46).

    Gene will later remark that few scenarios at Devon are not governed by rivalry. This, then, is how he conceives of his friendship with Finny. Wrestling together is a reflection of this healthy sense of competition, on which, as far as Gene knows, their friendship is based. This is why he feels so confused later, when he realizes Finny isn't concerned with competition between them.

    Chapter 2

    He pressed his advantage because he saw that Mr. Prud'homme was pleased, won over in spite of himself. […] There might be a flow of simple, unregulated friendliness between them, and such flows were one of Finny's reasons for living (2.4).

    If this is true, then Gene really did break something in Finny by betraying the trust of their friendship when he caused the accident.

    Chapter 5
    Gene Forrester

    It struck me then that I was injuring him again. It occurred to me that this could be an even deeper injury than what I had done before. I would have to back out of it, I would have to disown it (5.75).

    There are two ways to interpret this passage. Either this is one of Gene's greatest moments of honesty (he would rather live with his shame than hurt Finny by revealing the truth), or it's yet another moment of justification (he pretends he doesn't want to hurt Finny in order to recant the truth and save himself from persecution).

    Chapter 8
    Phineas

    "What I mean is, I love winter, and when you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love." I didn't think that this was true, […] but it was like every other thought and belief of Finny's: it should have been true. So I didn't argue (8.59).

    Look at Gene's reaction to this notion: it should have been true. He's enticed by Finny because he's enticed by the world Finny has created – a world of youth and peace.

    Gene Forrester

    The moment was past. Phineas I know had been even more startled than I to discover this bitterness in himself. Neither of us ever mentioned it again, and neither of us ever forgot that it was there (8.108).

    Phineas and Gene treat this outburst the same as they do Gene's earlier confession at Finny's house. Their friendship is predicated upon a suspended reality they build together. Or something else.

    Chapter 11
    Phineas

    "Naturally I don't believe books and I don't believe teachers. […] but I do believe—it's important after all for me to believe you. Christ, I've got to believe you, at least. I know you better than anybody" (11.84).

    Oh, irony. Or is it? DOES Finny, maybe, in some way, know Gene better than everyone else? After all, he does perhaps at some level know that Gene caused the accident and why…

    Chapter 12
    Gene Forrester

    None of them ever accused me of being responsible for what had happened to Phineas, either because they could not believe it or else because they could not understand it. I would have talked about that, but they would not, and I would not talk about Phineas in any other way (12.14).

    This is Gene's moment of greatest loyalty to his friend. By treating Finny's death honestly, he reveres him in a way he never did when Finny was alive and Gene had to protect himself.

  • Fear

    Chapter 1
    Gene Forrester

    Preserved along with it, like stale air in an unopened room, was the well known fear which had surrounded and filled those days, so much of it that I hadn't even known it was there. Because, unfamiliar with the absence of fear and what that was like, I had not been able to identify its presence (1.3).

    Is sixteen-year-old Gene really unaware of fear? This seems pretty inconsistent with his behavior…Can you say "unreliable narrator"?

    I felt fear's echo, and along with that I felt the unhinged, uncontrollable joy which had been its accompaniment and opposite face, joy which had broken out sometimes in those days like Northern Lights across black sky (1.5).

    A Separate Peace is all about equal but opposite pairs: war and peace, winter and summer, safety and injury, life and death, and here we see joy and fear.

    Chapter 4
    Gene Forrester

    I felt better. Yes, I sensed it like the sweat of relief when nausea passes away; I felt better. We were even after all, even in enmity. The deadly rivalry was on both sides after all (4.34).

    That Gene feels better at finding resentment in Finny proves both his jealousy and its source: Finny's character, not his abilities.

    Any fear I had ever had of the tree was nothing beside this. It wasn't my neck, but my understanding which was menaced. He had never been jealous of me for a second. Now I knew that there never was and never could have been any rivalry between us. I was not of the same quality as he (4.72).

    This is what Gene fears, more than Finny's athleticism or charm – his goodness of heart, his pureness of motive. The question is, then, why is Gene free of fear after Finny falls from the tree? His athleticism has been destroyed, but his character hasn't. What should we make of this?

    Chapter 9
    Elwin Lepellier

    In the silences between jokes about Leper's glories we wondered whether we ourselves would measure up to the humblest minimum standard of the army. I did not know everything there was to know about myself, and knew that I did not know it; I wondered in the silences between jokes about Leper whether the still hidden parts of myself might contain the Sad Sack, the outcast, or the coward. We were all at our funniest about Leper, and we all secretly hoped that Leper, that incompetent, was as heroic as we said (9.16).

    Leper becomes a reflection of all the boys' dreams of their own future selves in the army. What does it say, then, that Leper goes mad and abandons ship?

    Chapter 10
    Elwin Lepellier

    "That was when things began to change. One day I couldn't make out what was happening to the corporal's face. It kept changing into faces I knew from somewhere else, and then I began to think he looked like me…" (10.77).

    Leper's visions betray a fear of changing identity – think about this in the context of what's going on between Finny and Gene, as the latter "become[s] a part of" the former.

    Gene Forrester

    What did he mean by telling me a story like that! I didn't want to hear any more of it. Not now or ever. I didn't care because it had nothing to do with me. And I didn't want to hear any more of it. Ever (10.82).

    Gene is lying to himself again. What bothers Gene so much about Leper's visions is precisely this – they have everything to do with him, and with Phineas. Shifting identities is one of the many horrifying transformations going down at the Devon school.

    Chapter 11
    Phineas

    Finny turned toward me. "You were down at the bottom, weren't you? he asked, not in the official courtroom tone he had used before, but in a friend's voice (11.147).

    Finny so much fears his friend's betrayal that he has altered the past in his mind to avoid facing the truth.

    Chapter 12
    Gene Forrester

    None of them ever accused me of being responsible for what had happened to Phineas, either because they could not believe it or else because they could not understand it. I would have talked about that, but they would not, and I would not talk about Phineas in any other way (12.14).

    Gene spoke in Chapter One about his hope to achieve growth and harmony within himself. How might this passage address that question?

    I listened so hard that I nearly differentiated it from the others, and it seemed to be saying, "Finny, give that bone the old college try."

    I was quite the card tonight myself (12.13-4).

    After Finny's second fall, Gene deflects his fear in a variety of ways, first with objective reporting and secondly, as we see here, with humor.

  • Memory and the Past

    Chapter 1
    Gene Forrester

    Everything at Devon slowly changed and slowly harmonized with what had gone before. So it was logical to hope that since the buildings and the Deans and the curriculum could achieve this, I could achieve, perhaps unknowingly already had achieved, this growth and harmony myself (1.13).

    This becomes the governing question for all of A Separate Peace – whether or not Gene has achieved growth and harmony. As readers we are meant to reconsider this question again in the reflections of Chapter Thirteen.

    I didn't entirely like this glossy new surface, because it made the school look like a museum, and that's exactly what it was to me, and what I did not want it to be. In the deep, tacit way in which feeling becomes stronger than thought, I had always felt that the Devon School came into existence the day I entered it, was vibrantly real while I was a student there, and then blinked out like a candle the day I left (1.2).

    Gene has not learned from Finny's death; he's still manipulating reality to serve his purposes.

    Unbelievable that there were other trees which looked like it here. It had loomed in my memory as a huge lone spike dominating the riverbank, forbidding as an artillery piece, high as the beanstalk. Yet here was a scattered grove of trees, none of them of any particular grandeur (1.17).

    This sets the stage for narrative unreliability. We have to doubt the accuracy of Gene's story, not because he's actively lying, but because memory is flawed and subjective.

    Changed, I headed back through the mud. I was drenched; anybody could see it was time to come in out of the rain (1.20).

    Check that out – Gene is "changed" simply by having visited the tree, by having returned to Devon at all, maybe even by his telling of his story. The question, then, is…HOW is Gene changed?

    Chapter 5
    Gene Forrester

    The effect of his injury on the masters seemed deeper than after other disasters I remembered there. It was as though they felt it was especially unfair that it should strike one of the sixteen-year-old, one of the few young men who could be free and happy in the summer of 1942 (5.2).

    Look at how Gene's memory affects the "facts" of the story. He attributes to the masters his own feelings, that he was fortunate that summer to be free and happy.

    Chapter 9
    Gene Forrester

    It wasn't the cider which made me surpass myself, it was this liberation we had torn from the gray encroachments of 1943, the escape we had concocted, this afternoon of momentary, illusory, and separate peace (9.64).

    The "peace" that Gene repeatedly identifies at Devon is only obtained by escaping from the current times – by escaping from war.

    Chapter 13
    Gene Forrester

    There is no stage you comprehend better than the one you have just left (13.3).

    How well does Gene comprehend, now, his own time at Devon? Do his narrative and reflections prove or disprove this statement?

    Around them spread a beautiful New England day. Peace lay on Devon like a blessing, the summer's peace, the reprieve, New Hampshire's response to all the cogitation and deadness of winter. There could be no urgency in work during such summers; any parachutes rigged would be no more effective than napkins (13.16).

    Gene's feelings on the war are the result of Finny's death. Now that his personal enemy is gone, he can feel nothing but peace, even with the extremities of war encroaching on Devon.

  • Warfare

    Chapter 1

    The class above, seniors, draft-bait, practically soldiers, rushed ahead of us toward the war. They were caught up in accelerated courses and first-aid programs and a physical hardening regimen, which included jumping from this tree (1.27).

    Look how warfare is tied to games right from the beginning. There is something war-like about Finny and Gene jumping from the tree; the seeds of violence are sown in the reader's mind.

    Chapter 2
    Gene Forrester

    Bombs in Central Europe were completely unreal to us here, not because we couldn't imagine it […] but because our place here was too fair for us to accept something like that. We spent that summer in complete selfishness, I'm happy to say. The people in the world who could be selfish in the summer of 1942 were a small band, and I'm glad we took advantage of it (2.44).

    "Selfishness" is an interesting interpretation of youthful naiveté. As we'll see later in the novel, Gene grows past this state – but Finny never does.

    Chapter 3
    Gene Forrester

    Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him. It is the moment when his emotions achieve their most powerful sway over him, and afterward when you say to this person "the world today" or "life" or "reality" he will assume that you mean this moment, even if it is fifty years past. The world, through his unleashed emotions, imprinted itself upon him, and he carries the stamp of that passing moment forever (3.42).

    Gene claims that his "moment" is the war, but it is also his own state of enmity concerning Finny – his own private war and the emotions that go with it.

    Chapter 6
    Gene Forrester

    The point was, the grace of it was, that it had nothing to do with sports. For I wanted no more of sports. They were barred from me, as though when Dr. Stanpole said, "Sports are finished" he had been speaking of me. I didn't trust myself in them, and I didn't trust anyone else. It was as though football players were really bent on crushing the life out of each other, as though boxers were in combat to the death, as though even a tennis ball might turn into a bullet (6.93).

    What Gene has done by (allegedly) causing Finny's accident is to break the barrier between the war and the innocence of youth. That's why sports are over – there's no such thing anymore, in Gene's mind, as harmless play. Compare this passage to Finny's conception of sports (in which they are purely good and no one ever loses).

    Chapter 7
    Gene Forrester

    We seemed to be nothing but children playing against heroic men (7.79).

    …Yet the battles Gene fights, against his own fear and resentment, are far from child's play.

    The war would be deadly all right. But I was used to finding something deadly in things that attracted me; there was always something deadly lurking in anything I wanted, anything I loved. And if it wasn't there, as for example with Phineas, then I put it there myself (7.115).

    This hits an odd note for Gene. Either he's genuinely masochistic (unlikely), or he's desperately trying to justify his earlier actions.

    Chapter 8
    Gene Forrester

    He needed me. I was the least trustworthy person he had ever met. I knew that; he knew or should know that too. I had even told him. I had told him. But there was no mistaking the shield of remoteness in his face and voice. He wanted me around. The war then passed away from me, and dreams of enlistment and escape and a clean start lost their meaning for me (8.45).

    Gene may have stopped himself from enlisting, but by staying he's joined another kind of war, a war of his own making, having to do with Finny. (Against Finny, or with Finny? Tell us what you think.)

    Chapter 9
    Gene Forrester

    Phineas recaptured that magic gift for existing primarily in space, one foot conceding briefly to gravity its rights before spinning him off again into the air. It was his wildest demonstration of himself, of himself in the kind of world he loved; it was his choreography of peace (9.63).

    Gene's description reflects the way in which he makes himself and Finny into a dichotomy of warlike enmity and peaceful amity.

    Chapter 10
    Gene Forrester

    That night I made for the first time the kind of journey which later became the monotonous routine of my life; traveling through unknown countryside from one unknown settlement to another. The next year thus became the passing dominant activity, or rather passivity, of my army career, not fighting, not marching, but this kind of nighttime ricochet; for as it turned out I never got to the war (10.1).

    The idea of Gene constantly traveling but never fighting is an apt one – he's essentially looking for the enemy soldiers but is unable to find them. So he picks something, or someone, to be his enemy. Like Finny.

    Chapter 13
    Gene Forrester

    I finally identified this as the source of his disillusionment during the winter, this generalized, faintly self-pitying resentment against millions of people he did not know (13.35).

    By rejecting World War II, Brinker has created his own private war – against his father and the men like him. Gene's point that we all choose our enemies is reiterated here.

  • Jealousy

    Chapter 2
    Gene Forrester

    I was beginning to see that Phineas could get away with anything. I couldn't help envying him that a little, which was perfectly normal. There was no harm in envying even your best friend a little (2.20).

    The more Gene justifies his feelings toward Phineas, the more we can see that he's still ashamed of his actions.

    This time he wasn't going to get away with it. I could feel myself becoming unexpectedly excited at that (2.30).

    This is a minor event – a small transgression at an afternoon tea – but it speaks volumes as to Gene's character. This is where we really start to see his resentment of Finny's seemingly easy success.

    Chapter 3
    Gene Forrester

    Was he trying to impress me or something? Not tell anybody? When he had broken a school record without a day of practice? I knew he was serious about it, so I didn't tell anybody. Perhaps for that reason his accomplishment took root in my mind and grew rapidly in the darkness where I was forced to hide it (3.62).

    Notice the reason behind Gene's deepest envy of Phineas – it is not of his accomplishments, nor his skills or charm – just his goodness. Gene will realize this consciously in a bit – stay tuned.

    In such a nonstop game he also had the natural advantage of a flow of energy which I never saw interrupted. I never saw him tired, never really winded, never overcharged and never restless. At dawn, all day long, and at midnight, Phineas always had a steady and formidable flow of usable energy (3.40).

    Even after his accident, Phineas still possesses this energy – it's just no longer represented physically.

    It was a courageous thing to say. Exposing a sincere emotion nakedly like that at the Devon school was the next thing to suicide. I should have told him then that he was my best friend also and rounded off what he had said. I started to; I nearly did. But something held me back. Perhaps I was stopped by that level of feeling, deeper than thought, which contains the truth (3.74).

    Go back to that line at the beginning….

    "You always win at sports." This "you" was collective. Everyone always won at sports. When you played a game you won, in the same way as when you sat down to a meal you ate it. It inevitably and naturally followed. Finny never permitted himself to realize that when you won they lost. That would have destroyed the perfect beauty which was sport. Nothing bad ever happened in sports; they were the absolute good (3.7).

    Finny creates the Super Suicide Society as another form of sport, which ought to, according to his rules, be purely good. What Gene does by causing the accident is to turn the tree jump into a jealous perversion of that sport.

    Chapter 4
    Gene Forrester

    But examinations were at hand. I wasn't as ready for them as I wanted to be. The Suicide Society continued to meet every evening, and I continued to attend, because I didn't want Finny to understand me as I understood him (4.42).

    This statement soon becomes ironic when we realize that Gene has got Finny completely wrong.

    Chapter 8
    Gene Forrester

    For a moment I was almost taken in by it. Then my eyes fell on the bound and cast white mass pointing at me, and as it was always to do, it brought me down out of Fanny's world of invention, down again as I had fallen after awakening that morning, down to reality, to the facts (8.98).

    Earlier in the novel, we saw that Finny could charm his way out of any predicament, talk Gene into anything. But this ability, too, has been crippled by his fall.

  • Identity

    Chapter 3
    Gene Forrester

    To keep silent about this amazing happening deepened this shock for me. It made Finny seem too unusual for—not friendship, but too unusual for rivalry. And there were few relationships among us at Devon not based on rivalry (3.63).

    This may have something to do with Gene's desire to become Phineas. Since he cannot compete with the boy, he doesn't know any other way to relate to him. He can't exist in relation to Finny, so he becomes one with Finny.

    Chapter 5
    Phineas

    "I just fell," his eyes were vaguely on my face, "something jiggled and I fell over. I remember I turned around and looked at you, it was like I had all the time in the world. I thought I could reach out and get hold of you."

    I flinched violently away from him. "To drag me down too!" (5.25-6).

    As their identities continue to mesh, Gene begins to identify elements of himself – and not such nice elements, at that – in Phineas.

    Gene Forrester

    I spent as much time as I could alone in our room, trying to empty my mind of every thought, to forget where I was, even who I was. […] I decided to put on his clothes. […]

    This gave me such intense relief […]. I would never stumble through the confusions of my own character again (5.4-5).

    Gene loses his guilt because he abandons his identity, at least momentarily, by "becoming" Phineas.

    Chapter 6
    Gene Forrester

    "Listen you maimed son-of-a-bitch…"

    I hit him hard across the face. I didn't know why for an instant; it was almost as though I were maimed. Then the realization that there was someone who was flashed over me (6.46-7).

    Gene again steps out of his own character and assumes Finny's identity, as a crippled (and defensive) guy.

    Chapter 8
    Gene Forrester

    "You've been pretty lazy all along, haven't you?"

    "Yes, I guess I have been."

    "You didn't even know anything about yourself."

    "I don't guess I did, in a way" (8.131-4).

    Notice that, in order to learn more about himself, Gene has had to become like Finny – by becoming an athlete.

    Chapter 9
    Gene Forrester

    His eyes were furious now too, glaring blindly at me. "What do you know about it, anyway?" None of this could have been said by the Leper of the beaver dam (9.31).

    Gene can only deal with Leper's madness by stripping him of his identity.

    Chapter 11

    "On the limb!" Leper's annoyed, this-is-obvious tone would discount what he said in their minds; they would know that he had never been like this before, that he had changed and was not responsible (11.182).

    Think about this idea of responsibility – Leper isn't responsible because he has changed. For Gene, who began his narrative as a "changed" man, this is an appealing correlation.

    Gene Forrester

    This touched an interesting point Phineas had been turning over in his mind for a long time. […] "It's very funny," he said, "but ever since then I've had a feeling that the tree did it by itself. It's an impression I've had. Almost as though the tree shook me out by itself" (11.138).

    If Gene has no identity, as he later believes when wandering the campus as a "ghost," then this is, in an odd way, true. Gene wasn't Gene when he shook the branch.

    Chapter 12
    Gene Forrester

    I did not cry then or ever about Finny. I did not cry even when I stood watching him being lowered into his family's strait-laced burial ground outside of Boston. I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral, and you do not cry in that case (12.70).

    If Gene did in some way become a part of Phineas, then part of Finny lives on in Gene. The narrator alludes to this when he says that he still lives his life in Finny's created "atmosphere."

    My aid alone had never seemed to him in the category of help. The reason for this occurred to me as the procession moved slowly across the brilliant foyer to the doors; Phineas had thought of me as an extension of himself (12.7).

    We know why Gene is interested in abandoning his identity and assimilating that of Phineas (that would be the gut-wrenching guilt), but why is Phineas interested in turning Gene into a version of himself?