Finny views athletics as an "absolute good," and throughout A Separate Peace, athletic contests represent an idealized alternative to war. Like war, sports involve opposing sides intent on victory, but unlike war sporting events lack the casualties common to the battlefield. Finny's perspective on sports is exactly the opposite of his views on the war. He sees war as a construct invented by governments, a conflict in which everyone loses, while he believes "everyone always won at sports," which gives athletics a "perfect beauty." The novel supports Finny's ideas most powerfully by depicting Gene's experience while training for the Olympics. The intense training and single objective become a world of their own, a kind of cocoon surrounding Gene and protecting him from the fears of both adulthood and war. When he's training, Gene experiences the same inner peace that Finny had before his injury.
A Separate Peace
Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Sports and Athletics appears in each chapter of A Separate Peace. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
How often theme appears:
Below you will find the important quotes in A Separate Peace related to the theme of Sports and Athletics.
Chapter 4 Quotes
"Holding firmly to the trunk, I took a step toward him, and then my knees bent and I jounced the limb. Finny, his balance gone, swung his head around to look at me for an instant with extreme interest, and then he tumbled sideways, broke through the little branches below and hit the bank with a sickening, unnatural thud. It was the first clumsy physical action I had ever seen him make. With unthinking sureness I moved out on the limb and jumped into the river, every trace of my fear of this forgotten."
Chapter 6 Quotes
"'Listen, pal, if I can't play sports, you're going to play them for me,' and 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.
Chapter 8 Quotes
"So the war swept over like a wave at the seashore, gathering power and size as it bore on us, overwhelming in its rush, seemingly inescapable, and then at the last moment eluded by a word from Phineas; I had simply ducked, that was all, and the wave's concentrated power had hurtled harmlessly overhead."