Competition between Gene and Phineas
Uploaded by jgeary on Apr 02, 2002
Often times between both the best of friends and the bitterest of enemies there is competition. It can be a friendly competition over some minor event or goal, or a ruthless quest between two rivals who will stop at nothing to be first to reach the pinnacle. In A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Gene finds himself in a self-created competition with both himself and Phineas. Gene first is in competition with his own emotions and his loathing of Finny which conflicts with his friendship with Finny. Gene also is attempting to attain the position of Valedictorian and in his mind if he reaches this goal he would be not only Finny’s equal but actually better than him. The toughest of all for Gene, is how he is always competing to satisfy both his own academic expectations and Finny’s expectations of him.
Gene is a confused teenager, who does what he feels is the proper thing to do, though it isn’t what he really thinks deep inside of him. For example, when speaking of the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session, Gene says,
At that time it would never have occurred to me to say, ‘I don’t feel like it tonight,’ which was the plain truth every night. I was subject to the dictates of my mind, which gave me the maneuverability of a straight jacket…I went without a thought of protest.
Here, Gene is acting out the feelings he holds on the surface, which is his friendship with Finny, even though he only loathes Finny even more for, in Gene’s opinion, a naïve idea that Gene doesn’t ever need to study and can devote much of his time for the dumb antics and idea that Finny always has. Yet, Gene has had this mask up for so long, he almost is to the point that he doesn’t even notice when he makes these agreements that are conflicting with his true emotions. Later, after agreeing to go to the beach, he thinks to himself after Finny tells him that he is his best friend:
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.
Gene is stopped by that gut feeling that we all have, that...