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A Separate Peace - Gene And Finny

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Shortly after Finny's fall from the tree, Gene, consumed by guilt and fear, obeys a strange compulsion to dress ike his roommate. He puts on Finny's clothes - even the unconventional pink shirt that was the "emblem" for the Allied bombing of Central Europe - and looks at himself in the mirror. There Gene sees he has become Finny "to the life." The physical resemblance

Gene senses, brings on a surge of Finny's own unique spirit within him. Unexpectedly, Gene feels free, daring, confident - just like Finny. For a moment, Gene has become Finny's double.

In a sense, Gene and Finny have been each other's doubles since the beginning of the novel. In the first description of the boys standing together by the tree, the narrator makes clear that they resemble each other physically to a remarkable extent. Their heights and weights are nearly identical, although Funny weighs about ten pounds more than Gene. But the crucial ten pounts, Gene notes with envy, are distributed evenly over Finny's body. Finny, therefore, does not look like Gene with extra weight. Instead, next to Gene, Finny's entire physique looks more fille dout, somehow more striking. This weight difference, "galling" to Gene, seems to prove that Finny stands as the larger, more substantion, somehow more generous, of the two. For Gene, then, Finny represents another version of himself, only better and more powerful.

Without even trying, Finny shows Gene up in the most basic, physical way. Even more frustrating, Finny accepts his shorter than average height without difficulty, while the unconfident Gene tries to embellish his own physical stature by adding a half-inch. When Finny hears this, he virtually cuts Gene down to size by attesting flatly that they are the same height. Gene cannot lie about himself, it semms, because his other self - as like him as his shadow - will speak the truth.

The "shadow" side of the double expressed Gene's mixed feelings about Finny from the start. Some critics have identified Finny as Gene's "Doppelganger." another self, wild and uncontrollable, that Gene loves but feels he must destroy. Gene is the good boy, the theory explains, the student who wants to obey, but is prevented by dark forces beyond his control, represented by Finny.

Throughout the novel, Gene's preference for an orderly life is disrupted by Finny's whims, impulsive and dangerous. As much as Gene enjoys these occasional thrills, he feels threatened - both academically and personally - by Finny's freedom. At one point, Gene even becomes convinced that Finny's outings and forbidden jaunts are a deliberate attempt to sabotage Gene's plans to become the valedictorian. Since Gene's academic ambitions are so close to his heart, so crucial a part of his self-image, the suspicion horrifies and angers him.

Given this tension, Gene's instinctive jouncing of the limb might represent a kind of self-defense:



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