Through his training and friendship with Finny, Gene has a newfound inner peace, though he comments as the narrator that this sense of peace was "deceiving."
The focus on athletics keeps Gene from thinking either about himself or the war.
In January, to everyone's shock, Leper Lepellier enlists after watching a video about mountain commandos who travel on skis. Leper says he believes that war is good for the human race, a test of evolutionary progress.
Leper justifies his sudden enlistment by referring to biology, a subject he loves in school. Was he also motivated by Brinker's mockery?
Leper leaves school one week later. To Brinker and most of the other boys, Leper's participation in the war becomes a running joke: they claim he was behind every allied victory. Finny, though, refuses to take part in these jokes, and slowly pulls Gene into spending all of his time training for the Olympics.
The boys' jokes show their understanding is still childish, while Finny continues to ignore the war completely. The question Gene never considers is whether Finny is using athletics to make him, Gene, ignore the war too.
One bleak winter Saturday, Finny proposes the boys hold "The Devon Winter Carnival." With Gene, he assembles a crew of collaborators, including Brinker and his roommate Brownie Perkins. They drink hard cider and award prizes for athletic feats and the building of snow statues. Finny even gets up on the table and performs a dance that Gene calls a "choreography of peace" with his one good leg. In all, the carnival is a tremendous success. Gene describes it as their "momentary, illusory, special, and separate peace."
Finny regains his identity and his leadership role among the boys, and through the carnival creates a tribute to innocent youth, defying war and change. Finny's dance celebrates the victory of peace over war and envy.
But as the carnival is going on, Brownie brings Gene a telegram. It's from Leper, who says he's escaped from the military and needs Gene to come visit him immediately at his "Christmas location."
But the war is real and inescapable, and Leper and the innocence Leper represents have clearly not done well confronting it.