A Separate Peace Friendship Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In the novel 'A Separate Peace' by John Knowles, a special, although somewhat dysfunctional friendship develops between the two main characters, Finny and Gene. In this lesson, we will learn more about their friendship.

Unique Friendship

Did you ever make a deep friendship with someone? A friendship that seemed different than others and carried you through a big part of your life?

A Separate Peace by John Knowles is the story of a friendship that develops between two high school boys while attending a boarding school, Devon School, in 1942. As everyone is preparing to fight in World War II, these boys enjoy their last year of childhood. In this lesson, we will learn more about their friendship.

Becoming Best Friends

Finny is a daredevil and Gene has trouble saying 'No.' This sets the stage for two boys to bond in their last carefree year of high school, before drafts and enlistments preoccupy their thoughts. Finny creates a boys club in which membership is gained by jumping off a tree into the river. If Finny jumps out of a tree, does Gene follow? As Gene is in this very tree he thinks,

  • '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?'

Finny has the respect of nearly every student and faculty member on campus. By jumping off the tree, Gene has earned Finny's respect. He describes the moment:

  • ''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.'

Something is Different About Finny

While most friendships at Devon are based on competition, there is something unique about Finny. Gene first starts to suspect the difference when Finny beats the school swim record, but doesn't tell anyone about it. He wonders at this, saying,

  • '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.'

Furthering Gene's confusion, Finny divulges his feelings that Gene has become his best friend after spending the day at the beach together. Devon boys don't talk about feelings! We can see Gene's admiration when he says:

  • '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.'

Finny calls Gene his best friend at the beach.

An Extension of One Another

After Finny's injury (unknowingly at the hands of Gene), Finny had a hard time accepting help from anyone but Gene. For some reason, it didn't seem like asking for help if Gene was the one who gave it to him. Gene thinks on this,

  • '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.'

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