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A Separate Peace
Transcript of A Separate Peace
by John Knowles
Chapter 2 Notes
Chapter 3 Notes
"A Separate Peace"
Phineas or Finny
Where are we?
What's the time frame?
What does the author say is preserved there?
What words describe the town?
What two places does the narrator want to see?
How are these places described?
In the present time, list a couple of the narrator's feelings about the visit back to Devon and the change in the narrator's feelings over time.
What physical and emotional traits does Finny have?
There is a focus on Finny being able to talk himself out of problems. Where do you see this? Explain.
“Sarcasm is the protest of people who are weak.”
“I couldn’t help envying him a little, which was perfectly normal. There is no harm in envying your best friend a little.”
“He had gotten away with everything. I felt a sudden stab of disappointment. That was because I just wanted to see some more excitement; that must have been it.”
What do we learn about Leper?
What group is started?
What scary event takes place at the end of the chapter?
From this chapter, what is the significance of the book's title?
Blitzball and Swimming
The Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session
In the immortal words of Nicki Minaj: "Let's go to the beach....beach."
Finny: “Since we’re all enemies, we can and will turn on each other all the time.”
What is the context?
Finny: "...your best pal which is what you are."
What is Gene's response? Read the last paragraph again.
Chapter 1 Notes
Find a line in which you get the impression that Phineas is trying to control Gene.
What does the narrator say the tree symbolizes?
"nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not even a death by violence."
Why is blitzball created?
Why doesn't Finny want to immortalized in the school record books?
How does Gene interpret Finny's feat?
Chapter 4 Notes
Inside Gene's Head
Why is Finny sabotaging Gene?
Gene believes Finny when he says, "I'd kill myself out of jealous envy."
Explain why Gene thinks that he and Finny have equal envy and hatred.
What is the purpose of blitzball and the SSSSS?
Why does Gene continue to attend the SSSSS?
What fear does Gene have more than any fear of the tree?
Right before the tree jump, Gene "can't stand" that Finny lacks a certain character quality. What is it?
"Finny has a heart of lonely selfish ambition."
Life Lesson: If you believe something about your friends motives and actions, and you are jealous of your friend, maliciously and impulsively knock him out of a tree instead of talking to him.
Read the last sentence of the chapter again. How does Gene feel?
Read the first two paragraphs of this chapter again. What words stand out to you relating to setting?
What observations does Gene make about the supervision at the school? Does this have any effect to his actions on the tree limb?
Chapter 5 Notes
Gene's Loss of Identity
"I was Phineas, Phineas to the life."
Reflections on Gene
He has guilt: "I was confronted with myself, and what I had done to Finny.”
Assumptions: He thinks that Finny is going to accuse him.....
Contrasted to Finny
....Finny starts to accuse him, BUT he feels awful for even thinking it. He even apologizes!
Realization: They were never competitors.
Contradiction of thought: "I was pretty sure I didn’t know Finny at all.”
Liar: “You aren’t going to start living by the rules, are you?” “Oh no, I wouldn’t do that,” and that was the most false thing, the biggest lie of all.
Contrast to Dimmesdale: Gene wants to clear the air and not sit with his guilt.....but
....Finny doesn't want to believe the truth. After all, how could he? His thoughts of his best friend are shattered....like his leg. Okay, that was mean of me.
Chapter 6 Notes
“Peace had deserted Devon.”
How is the war affecting the Devon School?
What is the topic of the keynote speech?
You should hate Brinker Hadley
Compare and contrast Brinker and Finny.
Differentiate between the Devon River and the Naguamsett.
What is the content of these conversations. Connect it to some bigger representations in the story.
Conversation with Finny
What is the gist of the conversation with Finny?
"I lost part of myself to him then, and a soaring sense of freedom revealed that this must have been my purpose from the first: to become a part of Phineas.”
Gene's loss of self.....again.
Chapter 7 Notes
"...we seemed to be nothing but children playing among heroic men."
This chapter is a picture of the boys feeling like life is passing them by. They can no long feel separate from the war. What event prompts this?
Now, on to Gene...
Interrogation in the Butt Room/Smoking Room
How does Gene evade the truth during this scene?
What phrase can Gene not utter? What does this show about him?
"You'll have your day in court."--Remember this.
What sets Leper apart from the other boys?
What "fight" does Gene have in his mind about Leper?
"But I was used to finding something deadly in things that attracted me; there was always something deadly lurking in anything I wanted, anything I loved. And if it wasn't there, as for example with Phineas, then I put it there myself."
Gene enlists; because life can't be like the Summer Session.
Then everything fades away when Finny returns.
Chapter 8 Notes
The war is a sham!
What activity does Gene take up now that Finny has returned?
"...your little plot didn't work so well after all." -Brinker
With Finny's return, what else returns for Gene?.......
Should we just start combining their names?...like Fene or maybe Ginny?
They skip class.
Gene sasses Mr. Ludsbury.
Awwww...just like old times!
What is Finny's opinion of love?
"...when you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love."
Guilt trip for Gene.
Finny's opinion on war.
It doesn't exist.
Finny has a friendship love for Gene, and because his love his real, he believes that Gene truly loves him back. He has this same approach to all of the world. If you love something enough, it will love you back.
After all, why would he want to believe in the war. Right now, physically speaking, he cannot enlist.
His self preservation is threatened, so he responds to Ludsbury in an uncharacteristic cold way.
So, in a way, the title of the book applies to him.
Also he is a separate peace because, unlike Gene, Finny isn't fighting anybody. He didn't have a competitor for sports either.
....so, Finny escapes in his mind. The war doesn't exist.
He escapes by training Gene for the '44 Olympics. After all, this is what Finny wanted to do. Oooh....that's a problem, not only for Finny, but.....
This is also contributes to Gene's loss of self.
Talk about unhealthy.
Chapter 9 Notes
Gene feels at peace as he trains with Finny. The reality of the war fades away even though Leper enlists.
The war would feel more real if someone like Brinker enlisted. Why?
Leper the Hero
By the boys making up stories about how Leper is a heroic figure in the war, they establish a connection to it, despite the fact that the connection is a false sense of reality.
Still, Gene really hopes that Leper is heroic.
The Winter Carnival-another escapism technique-a little bit of the summer session is brought back.
Finny, on the other hand, doesn't like to participate in this talk; so, he pulls Gene away and has him focus strictly on his training.
The festivities and the party is just what the boys need, apparently.
Brinker tries to take over. No surprise. That doesn't work and the boys tackle him for fun.
Peace and escapism disappears when Gene gets a letter from Leper.
Chapter 10 Notes
Leper's hallucinations....or reality?
Both of Leper's hallucinations have to do with some sort of transformation
Leper refers to Gene as his best friend.
Remember: we are looking at this book through a very jaded narrator. Could Leper and Gene be better friends than what Gene lets on?
Gene turning into Finny
Boys turning into soldiers.
He doesn't want to believe that Leper escaped or did something wrong. He says that he wants to believe that Leper escapes from some spies. Here is another example of Gene trying to escape the truth.
When Leper talks about his hallucinations, Gene can't handle it, so he runs away.
And of course, Leper accuses Gene of knocking Finny out of the tree. NOT a hallucination. Of course, this causes Gene to react to Leper by knocking HIM over. Apparently, it you are Gene, and you lose your cool, you just knock people over.
So, Gene reacts by denying how he truly feels and stays for lunch. He escapes his feelings. He just feels guilty. Not always a good idea to react out of obligation.
Chapter 11 Notes
The diminishing spirit and power of Finny
-Leper's madness makes the war real
-Gene tries to keep up the facade for Finny.
Odd lengthy description of the walls
Finny's poster: the fat men that are a part of the war
Gene's poster: a picture of "his house."
What is interesting and unique about these pictures and the characters?
Finny makes a comment that he needs to trust Gene and believe him because he knows him better than anyone else.
Or he doesn’t care. He chooses to overlook it all; because he depends on him and he loves him as a friend.
-Brinker vs. Gene
-winter vs. summer
-truth/justice vs. preservation of Finny's innocence and denial of reality
-reality vs. a separate peace
And then the fall...
Interesting observation about the fall, if you read again the passage where Gene knocks Finny out of the tree and Finny's fall, you will notice that there is no description concerning Gene's emotional state. No surprise!
Chapter 12 Notes
Gene has lost just about all sense of himself and he is a little dead. Severed from Finny; he feels like a ghost. He can’t hear the landscape “speak.”
Gene endures the fall by making light of it all. Uses humor as a defense mechanism.
Interaction between Finny and Gene is weird. At night, Finny is very angry with Gene. During the day, he has calmed down.
Finny seems to be ready to forgive. He wants to chalk up the fall to a blind sudden urging impulse. He might be forcing himself to believe this, though.
If he thought that it was something else, he would have given up his friendship a while ago.
Gene speaks a lot, but we never know his thoughts.
Gene is a problematic narrator:
His mindset before the fall makes us believe that he would be guilty whether or not he consciously jostled the branch.
Gene’s devotion afterward causes us to think that he is cleared of all pretense bad motivations.
Maybe his devotion is out of shame, which if that’s true, then he did intend to knock off Finny.
Maybe his regret or loathing have made up for his possible actions.
Finny and Gene are codependent on each other. They rely on each other to make themselves self-deluded. In fact, they blend into the same character, so to speak.
They become the separate peace-thoughts of Olympic glory, ignoring the present reality-ignoring adulthood, accepting adolescence.
They had such a strong bond that Gene feels like the funeral is his own. Several other comments of Gene’s loss of self-He looks at his hands and they look like somebody else’s.
Chapter 13 Notes
The literal war invades Devon-adding to cynicism among the boys.
Leper’s madness and Finny’s death: The boys have kind of taken on the idea of war as a conspiracy-they all kind of agree with Finny.
They don’t really want to fight.
Brinker joins the coast guard. Romantic notions of fighting are gone.
Brinker’s dad represents the fat men.
Gene views war as ignorance out of the human heart-ignorance that seeks to destroy the enemy and make the world a hostile place.
Big metaphor: WWII represents man’s need for a personal enemy. He lists off the characters and how they respond to the enemy. He doesn’t mention himself because his enemy was Finny-not his accomplishments, but his goodness and innocence.
The novel closes with Gene reflecting on Finny’s great gift—his ability to remain innocent (“unfallen,” one might say), see the world as a good, beneficent place, and never even imagine the possibility of an enemy.
Book ends with Finny’s worldview of sorts, if hatred stems from our heart then we will never be able to have good relationships with others. If our animosities stems from our ignorance, then there’s hope.