Separate Peace

Friendship is a bond that is held together by mutual respect and common
benevolence. John Knowles explores this realm deeply in his novel, A Separate

Peace. Phineas and Gene are best friends, but their friendship is challenged as

Gene feels that Finny is superior. Finny, unlike Gene, has no inner conflict,
but instead he mentally creates a perfect universe. When Gene finally unleashes
his suppressed anger by use of violence, Finny is unable to accept it as
intentional in an effort to sustain his perfect world. Unfortunately, he permits
this hidden truth to fester until ultimately it destroys his mental paradise
along with himself. Finny utilizes his idealistic views of life, genuine caring
for others, and charismatic abilities to make people love him in order to
preserve his inner utopia. Finny’s idealistic views of the real world are
optimistic and show the naivetй of his character. He has standards of
perfection for life, and he is willing to sacrifice the truth to uphold this
perfection. This is true even when the truth is openly admitted, such as when

Gene confesses that he "deliberately jounced the limb so you [Finny] would
fall off" (Knowles 62). Finny simply denies it and even shows some anger by
threatening to "kill you [Gene] if you don’t shut up" (62). This anger
becomes the first step in the deterioration of his perfect universe. Finny
cannot accept the fact that there are imperfect feelings in the world, such as
losing, because "Finny never permitted himself to realize that when you won,
they lost" (27). Furthermore, Finny has a genuine heart, which aids in his
friendship with Gene. His sincerity and honesty significantly depicts how
uncorrupt his character is. He sets aside certain rules to live by, of which he
strongly believes to "Never say you are five feet nine when you’re five feet
eight and a half" (26). This reveals how true Finny’s character is, and the
fact that it is a commandment shows how his morals are the basis for his life.

Finny is also very sincere with his friendship towards Gene, by openly revealing
that "‘At this teen-age period in life the proper person is your best
pal.’ He hesitated and then added, ‘which is what you are,’" (40).

Whereas Gene is insecure about their friendship, Finny readily admits his true
feelings. This genuine attitude deteriorates in the end along with his world as
he lies in an effort to suppress the truth. Additionally, Finny has an
undeniable charisma that gives him the natural charm respected by all, all but

Gene. He has an extraordinary power to make people love him, and it is that love
which Gene envies. His power is shown when "he was forced to speak himself,
the hypnotic power of his voice combined with the singularity of his mind to
produce answers, which were often no right but could rarely be branded as
wrong" (46). His charisma allows him to slip out of difficult situations, such
as when Finny wears the Devon School tie as a belt, the substitute Headmaster"seemed pleased or amused in some unknown corner of his mind" (19). Gene,
however, envied this, and it gives him an excuse to unleash his anger and the
violence. So consequently, Finny’s charisma ultimately leads to his demise.

Finny is idealistic in his visions of the world, genuine in his caring for
people, and charismatic in his convincing nature, and these qualities make him
highly revered by many. Unfortunately, Gene tries to compete with Finny, which
is impossible for Gene, so he envies Finny. When Gene releases his anger, Finny
is unable to accept the truth, because he wants to preserve his utopia. This
perfect world is created by Finny’s mind in order to not see the evils of the
real world. The friendship between the two of them is not mutual. This is why
one must keep their enemies close, but their friends closer, because friends are
most likely to stab their friends in the back.