Gene Forrester, the main character as well as narrator in The Separate Peace, is immediately torn between two influences as he attends Devon School. Due to the amazing abilities of his best friend Phineas, his mind is pulled in conflicting directions from his desires and those of Phineas. Gene is assigned a difficult role in obliging to his academics as well as sports throughout the novel at these points: during the summer semester at Devon; after the return of Phineas from his injury; and after the death of Phineas.
When Gene attends the summer portion of classes that Devon offers, he finds himself troubled by conflicting interests. He demonstrates great focus on his academics and his goal towards the honor of valedictorian; however, he is forced to also put forth a great effort towards athletics. Finny is an athletic all-star and expects his best friend to have just as much enthusiasm in sports. It is, however, extremely difficult for Gene to have as much focus and determination towards athletics as Finny because of Finny’s unmatched athleticism. Phineas could do just about anything in sports as long as he set his mind to it, just as he did when he broke the school swimming record without any experience: “I thought I was going to do it. It felt as though I had that stop watch in my head and I could hear myself going just a little bit faster than A. Hopkins Parker.” (43) Gene did his best to support Finny and give an effort in sports like blitzball, noting that Finny “could shine at many things” (40) and accepting his lesser athletic capabilities. One subject Gene was more successful and determined at then Finny was academics, in which he had made name for himself as one of the top students. It made him proud and was something in which he could “come out on top” and “be even” with Finny (52). He was determined to become “head of the class” (51) and began to struggle to satisfy Finny’s interest of sports and games as well as his own of academics. He demonstrates this by exploding on Finny when asked to go out during studying: “Studying! You know, books. Work. Examinations… You don’t know what I’m talking about.” (57) During the summer at Devon, the bond between Gene and Finny has a great impact on Gene’s life and forces him to sacrifice some of his own interests and time to support his friend.
Once Finny suffers his devastating injury, Gene drops his dedication towards athletics. He considers joining team management but no longer sees a need to be distracted from his school work. He tells Finny he’s “too busy for sports” (84) and that “sports don’t seem so important with the war on.” (114) He works hard on his studying and academics until Phineas returns from his injury, once again becoming a huge part of Gene’s life. He tells him, “If I can’t play sports, you’re going to play them for me,” (85) and assigns his best friend the role of carrying out his athletic dreams. He explains to him that his lifelong dream was to attend the 1944 Olympics; unable to fulfill this anymore, he tells Gene “We’re grooming you for the Olympics, palm in 1944.” Finny greatly improves Gene’s athletic ability, and in return, Gene takes it upon himself to tutor Phineas and improve his school work. During the winter classes at Devon, Gene divides his “time between tutoring Finny in studies and being tutored by him in sports.” (119) At this point in the school year, Gene and Finny benefit each other greatly at one another’s strong points. Gene gets in a routine and is more capable of balancing the two ambitions so that he can live out Finny’s goals for him at the same time as succeeding in what he believes is important.
After the death of Gene’s best friend [why are you stating this now?]Finny, he struggles to be the same person as before. He felt as though he was part of Finny, making it hard to come to the realization that he was left without his companion in the world of war. Finny had an everlasting effect on Gene and this is shown through these symbols that Finny revisits before leaving his senior year at Devon: the gym in which so many trophies are located that have been awarded to Phineas; the track that Finny had Gene run during the winter, in which he discovered an inner burst of energy; the steps in which Finny made his last fall, leading to his death. Gene always excelled at his academics, but his visitation to memorable spots of athletic achievement for Finny and himself showed the permanent obligation Gene has to both ambitions.
Gene demonstrates a great deal of effort and passion towards the influences of his school work as well as athletics throughout the summer at Devon; the winter classes in which Phineas returns; and the ending moments at Devon after the death of Finny. Finny’s influence on Gene is invaluable. Gene takes on the role of being Finny’s legs while continuing to succeed at his own goals. He is forced to deal with the influences of conflicting directions and deals with them well.
I am not sure you have showed the way in which the character's concerns and problems reflect the theme of the book.
Your last paragraph does not provide a summation of your argument.
academics = teachers in an institution of higher education.