A Separate Peace

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A Separate Peace Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Finny immediately mocks Gene's shoveling work clothes, and complains that the school no longer has maids. Gene's explanation that the war justifies scaling back luxuries doesn't satisfy Finny.
Finny hates how the war has changed the school. It has destroyed the innocent paradise of the summer.
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The next morning, Brinker enters. When he sees Finny, he starts to joke about Gene offing Finny to get the room, but Gene quickly changes the subject to their imminent enlistment. Finny is horrified, and Gene decides that, in fact, he won't enlist. Soon he and Finny are making fun of Brinker's enlistment plans.
Before he was injured Finny saw the war as distant, unreal fun and games. Now that it's affecting him he reacts against it. Is this an extension of his earlier position, or a change?
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As Finny and Gene walk around the wintry Devon campus, Finny says that winter must love him, since he loves it. Gene silently thinks that Finny's idea of reciprocal love has been proven false by experience, but that it should be true.
Finny's reciprocal love idea captures both his innocence and his self-contained blindness toward other people: he just assumes everything and everyone thinks just like him.
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Finny suggests that they cut class and go see the gym. Walking to the gym makes Finny out of breath, and Gene realizes the toll that Finny's injury truly has taken on him.
Though Finny seems to remain his same optimistic self, his body has clearly changed and betrayed him.
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In the locker room, Finny again asks Gene what sports he's gone out for. Gene says none because sports seem trivial during wartime. Finny rejects this notion, and describes the entire war as a fake. He says the war was invented by old men who want to stop young people from enjoying themselves, just as the Great Depression was used to wipe out the revelry of the Roaring Twenties.
Finny describes the war, in essence, as a War Against Youth, and places himself in direct opposition to it, going so far as to claim it doesn't exist. Finny therefore casts himself in the role of preserving Youth, Innocence, and Fun against this false menace.
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Gene asks what makes Finny "so special" that he can see this conspiracy while everyone else believes in the war. Finny blurts that his understanding comes from having suffered. Finny's claim shocks them both.
But Finny's outburst shows he has some bitterness. Finny's ability to hold off reality through force of will is weakening.
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Gene breaks the awkward silence that follows Finny's outburst by doing chin-ups. Finny encourages him to do thirty, then says he once had the goal of making the Olympics. He resolves to train Gene to qualify for 1944 Games. Gene agrees.
In the first half of the novel, innocent Finny invented "blitzball" a warlike sport without killing or victory. Now he uses sports, through Gene, as a way to hide from the war.
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Over the following months, Gene tutors Finny in academic subjects and Finny helps Gene become a stronger runner.
Gene and Finny begin to really switch identities, which is what Gene always wanted.
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One day while training Gene feels stronger and freer than before.
Perfection in athletics provides freedom.
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Mr. Ludsbury notices him training and tells them to remember that all athletic training is preparation for the war. Finny responds: "No." The reply startles Mr. Ludsbury, who walks away muttering. Finny comments to Gene that Ludsbury must be too thin to be let in on the old fat men's conspiracy. Gene pities Ludsbury.
Ludsbury, of the older generation, thinks all actions should be seen in terms of the war effort. Finny rejects such a view. Gene now so idealizes Finny that he accepts his view outright, without thought.
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