IRJE – April 1 – A Separate Peace

In A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Finny’s death comes as quite a shock. Throughout the novel, Gene has been struggling with the guilt of knowing that he caused Finny’s accident. However, I am certain this feeling has intensified. Near the beginning of this novel, Gene reminisces about a time where he shook the tree Finny was in, which caused him to fall and shatter his leg. As an athlete, Finny was devastated, but he never once held Gene accountable. After Finny healed for a few months, he returned to the Devon School for boys, and other than his inability to play sports, everything seemed back to normal. Unfortunately, one night, Finny fell down the stairs while discussing his injury with his friends, and broke his leg again. The doctor assured Gene that this was a cleaner break, and that he would only have to set the leg back into place. Despite the reassurance, this did not go as planned, and Finny ended up loosing his life in the process.

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. (p. 214)

When I read that Finny had died, I thought I was hallucinating. There seemed to be no hint that it was coming. One moment, the doctor was telling Gene what a simple procedure this was, and the next, he was telling Gene that Finny was dead. I couldn’t help thinking to myself, did I miss something? Did my brain not comprehend the novel I was reading at 11:45pm? How could the author do such a thing to two friends, who have been through so much already. As I read, and reread these pages, I thought back to the last conversation between Gene and Finny. What would they have said to one another if they knew it would be the last? The passage that I chose exemplifies the relationship between the two boys. Gene is expressing that Finny wasn’t simply his friend, he was an extension of himself. This bond is not like any other, because your pain becomes their pain, their pain becomes yours. Loosing that would be agonizing. And loosing that with no warning, indirectly due to an accident that he caused, would be unbearable.