Phineas Personality in A Separate Peace
Page 154 Start Someone knocked me down End I guess thats good, all right.
This passage from A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, effectively spotlights Phineas personality and reflects the war. Genes narration shows how Finnys personality allows all of kids, especially Brinker, to refrain from thinking about the war and be free from thinking of the war for a short period of time. Also, Finny successfully constructs another game in which there are no winners or losers. Consequently, the diction, sentence structure, and details used in Genes narration hint to the underlying theme of the war. Phineas, as shown in the passage, remains unfazed by the war and continues to reflect his innocence.
Genes diction throughout his narration helps to reveal Finnys personality, but also hints to the major theme of war. For example, Gene recalls,I bent cheerfully over to help him up, this shows how despite the fact that Finny had turned on Gene and later on everyone, Gene still happily helped Finny up. This reflects his personality because it is nearly impossible to become angry at Phineas, his constant fun-loving attitude, rubs off on others. Finnys personality is also reflected in Genes diction when Gene says how Finny had a steadily widening grin, when he was driven down beneath a blizzard of snowballs. This exemplifies Phineas personality because he was at his happiest when the tables were turned against him and there would be no chance of any distinct winners or losers. This again relates back to when Gene tells Finny that [he] wouldnt be any good in the war, even if nothing happened to [his] leg. Likewise, Genes diction also alludes many times to the war. For example, while describing the snowball fight, he uses words such as allies, betrayed, and generalship. This shows, that in Genes case, the war is and will always be in the back of his mind. Gene also alludes to the war with the repetition of the word vitality. This relates to the war because vitality refers to the smell of liveliness that he finds in the clothes of the snowball fight. Gene also states that he did not think that the next season, which was going to include the war, had this smell of vitality.
Genes sentence structure in his recollection of the snowball fight also helps to provide insight about Phineas personality. Towards the end of the passage, Gene recalls a conversation between himself and Finny, where he offers no insight or commentary. This is a significant and obvious break from the traditional narration that Gene used throughout the novel. Also, this form of narration only seems to be used during the crucial scenes of the book. For example, on page 169, Gene again stops his narration when the anonymous voice blatantly suggests that Gene pushed Finny off the tree during the trial. The voice also tries to get Finny to recognize that fact. During the conversation in the passage, Finny states that he thinks that his leg is getting stronger than it was before he broke it. Gene replies, Thank God. which demonstrates how Gene still feels the burden of Finnys leg long after the incident, and will continue to do so until Finny is fully recovered. Genes sentence structure also seemed to be concise and to the point throughout the passage. This also reveals Finnys personality because the thoughts all seem to be physical descriptions of the snowball fight instead of more in depth commentary. This shows that Finnys personality took over, and Gene was thinking only of him and what was going on in the snowball fight.
The details that Gene includes in his narration and the details that are left out, both provide insight towards Phineas personality and the impending war. The details that Gene includes about the snowball fight are all physical or plot details of the fight. This exemplifies Finnys strength in clearing peoples minds, all of the kids were thinking only about the snowball fight. As Gene mentioned earlier in the text [the] gathering had obviously been Finnys work, only Finny could have convinced all those people to partake in the snowball fight. Finnys personality also stands out in the passage because he was able to change Brinkers demeanor completely. As recalled by Gene, Brinkers sense of generalship disappeared, and he too became as slippery as an Arab, as intriguing as a eunuch. Despite everyone turning against him in the snowball fight, Finny still says, That was a good fight. I thought it was pretty funny, didnt you? Gene does not include his response in the narration. This relates back to the instance when, on page 48, Finny says, the proper person is your best pal which is what you are. Despite this sincere emotion from Finny, Gene does not respond. Both of these incidents show the moral difference between Finny and Gene. Finny is easy-going and does not have a problem exposing his emotions to others, as Gene says after Finny tells him he is his best-friend, Exposing a sincere emotion nakedly like that at the Devon School was the next thing to suicide. This again shows how Finny does not care what others think of him and is simply himself like the time he wore the pink shirt. Gene, on the other hand, is much more reserved and does not reveal his emotions like Finny.
The passage not only hints to the theme of war the is beginning to encompass Devon School, but it also shows how Phineas personality can take everyones mind off of it. This again shows how Finnys innocence rubs off onto others. The diction, sentence structure, and details also help to emphasize Finnys personality and connect his personality with the impending war. Finny becomes the separate peace at the Devon School that prohibits the war from invading Devon. Once Finny passes away, however, the war finally makes its way into Devon.