Gene's best friend and classmate at the Devon School. Finny is an extraordinarily talented athlete and a charismatic student leader who's earned the respect and admiration of the entire student body. Finny's freewheeling behavior often gets him into trouble, but his charming ways save him from every potential disciplinary snag. Finny's general outlook and demeanor is forgiving and optimistic, which contrasts with Gene's more cautious and rational approach to life. In fact, while Gene feels an intense rivalry with Finny, Finny shares none of Gene's competitive feelings. Instead, Finny assumes innocently and arrogantly that Gene and everyone else must share his carefree approach to life. One of the novel's central unanswered questions is whether Finny's naïve self-centeredness makes him deserving of Gene's resentment. Another mystery of A Separate Peace is whether the often idealized, or even angelic, portrayal of Finny rendered by Gene reflects the truth about Finny's character or rather Gene's unresolved guilt over Finny's death.
The A Separate Peace quotes below are all either spoken by Phineas ("Finny") or refer to Phineas ("Finny"). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of A Separate Peace published in 2003.).
Chapter 2 Quotes
"I think we reminded them of what peace was like, we boys of sixteen....We were careless and wild, and I suppose we could be thought of as a sign of the life the war was being fought to preserve....Phineas was the essence of this careless peace."
Chapter 3 Quotes
"To keep silent about this amazing happening deepened the shock for me. It made Finny seem too unusual for—not friendship, but too unusual for rivalry. And there were few relationships among us at Devon not based on rivalry."
Chapter 4 Quotes
"I found a single sustaining thought. The thought was, You and Phineas are even already. You are even in enmity. You are both coldly driving ahead for yourselves alone....I felt better. We were even after all, even in enmity. The deadly rivalry was on both sides after all."
"He had never been jealous of me for a second. Now I knew that there never was and never could have been any rivalry between us. I was not of the same quality as he."
"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."
Chapter 9 Quotes
"It wasn't the cider which made me surpass myself, it was this liberation we had torn from the gray encroachments of 1943, the escape we had concocted, this afternoon of momentary, illusory, special and separate peace."
Chapter 12 Quotes
"'You'd get things so scrambled up nobody would know who to fight any more. You'd make a mess, a terrible mess, Finny, out of the war.'"
Chapter 13 Quotes
"I never killed anybody and I never developed an intense level of hatred for the enemy. Because my war ended before I ever put on a uniform; I was on active duty all my time at school; I killed my enemy there. Only Phineas never was afraid, only Phineas never hated anyone."
The timeline below shows where the character Phineas ("Finny") appears in A Separate Peace. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...thoughts about their rivalry were "ludicrous," and realizes that, if he were in Gene's situation, Finny would confess. He starts to confess, but just then Dr. Stanpole enters. The summer session... (full context)
...Gene is visited by Brinker. Brinker admires Gene's room, and jokes that Gene purposely injured Finny to get it all to himself. Gene defends himself, then changes the subject and suggests... (full context)
...along, confessing to the crime, but stops in the middle of describing how he knocked Finny from the branch. When another boy suggests Gene just pushed Finny off, Gene ridicules him... (full context)
...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... (full context)
...enlist. One morning, Brinker suggests that Gene is delaying enlisting because he feels pity for Finny, and because some details of the accident that need to be "cleared up." Gene denies... (full context)
...returns to the infirmary, he is shocked to numbness when Dr. Stanpole tells him that Finny has died because some marrow from the break entered Finny's bloodstream during the operation. (full context)