The main character in my book, A Separate Peace, is Gene Forrester. At the beginning of the book, Gene is an innocent boy, going along with everything his roommate, the outgoing and energetic Phineas, says. “What was I doing up here anyway? Why did I let Finny talk me into doing stupid things like this?” (17) During this scene in the book, Gene is questioning his decision to jump out of a very tall tree, which he was convinced to climb by Phineas. As the story continues, Gene starts to believe that Phineas is trying to sabotage him. He thinks that Phineas is doing this so that he can be better at everything. However, in reality, Phineas is honestly just trying to have fun with Gene. “You and Phineas are even already… You did hate him for beating that school swimming record, but so what? He hated you for getting an A in every course but one last term. You would have had an A except for him… Finny had deliberately set out to wreck my studies!” (53) After this realization, Gene is bitter toward Phineas. When the chance arrives, Gene takes it. Furious and not thinking, Gene knocks Phineas out of the tree they are both standing in. “And then my knees bent and I jounced the limb. Finny, his balance gone, swung his head around to look at me… and then he tumbled sideways.” (60) After this incident, Gene feels incredibly guilty. He tries to confess to Phineas, but Finny just thinks he is crazy. He really believes that he just slipped and fell. Finally, Phineas realizes the truth and becomes furious with Gene. However, when he runs away from Gene on his already broken leg, he falls and causes another fracture. “Then these separate sounds collided into the general tumult of his body falling clumsily down the white marble steps.” (177) While Finny is in the infirmary, Gene comes and tries to apologize, but Finny will not listen. “You want to break something else in me! Is that why you’re here?” (184) Gene realizes he has made one of the worst mistakes in his life. Just as he is about to go and try to make it up to Finny, he is told the worst news he could imagine. “Your friend is dead… In the middle of setting his leg his heart just stopped.” (193) It is too late for Gene to do anything. He just tries to forget about that horrible incident forever.
I believe that the main idea for most of this book is the conflict between Phineas and Gene. There is also an underlying main idea about WWII. Almost as soon as the book starts, the characters talk about the war. “When they torpedo the troopship… You can’t stand around admiring the view. Jump!” (17) Then the conflict between Gene and Finny starts to emerge. They seem to be friendly sometimes, but in the end, they are almost always at odds. The war also takes a great toll on all of the characters emotionally, especially Leper, who enlists and goes mad while in the army. “They were going to give me a section 8 discharge… A section 8 discharge is for the nuts in the service, the psychos.” (144)