Characterization of Finny


In a Separate Peace by John Knowles there is a character Phineas other wise known as Finny. Finny is an honest and ignorant charismatic young boy of 16 who is outgoing. Finny is unknowing of his ability to manipulate people. Finny is a lover of basic simple life. This story is set in a New England Prepschool. Finny and Gene are the best of friends. Making their contribution to the war effort by simultaneously jumping out of a tree, Gene jounces the limb and causes Finny to fall and break his leg. Gene jounced them limb on purpose. Finny is in denial when Gene tells him the truth. Finny goes into a torrent falls down the stairs and breaks his leg again. The story is centered around Gene causing Finny to fall and Finny accepting the truth.

Finny is honest in many ways he is honest with himself and what he believes in, he is also honest with the people in his surroundings. “ It’s you pal Finny said at last just you and me. He and I started back across the fields, preceding the others like two seigneurs. We were the best of friends that moment. You were very good , said Finny good naturally , once I shamed you into it. You didn’t shame me into anything. Oh yes I did. I’m good for you that way you have a tendency to back away from thing otherwise. I never backed away from anything in my life! I cried, my indignation at this charge naturally stronger because it was true.” This is a classic example of Finny’s honesty. He is being honest with himself about why his best friend Gene Forrester did not jump from the tree. He is also being honest with Gene. “Finny didn’t really dislike West Point in particular or authority in general, but he just considered authority the necessary evil against which happiness was achieved.” This is another example of Finnys Ignorance. He doesn’t know any better than to think that authority is an evil. Finny

Finny does not realize his powers. He has the power to manipulate people into his side of the story with out even trying or thinking about it.

Our absence from dinner had been noticed. The following morning—the clean-washed shine of summer mornings in the north country—Mr. Prud’homme stopped at our door. He was broad-shouldered, grave, and he wore a gray business suit. He did not have the careless, almost British look of most of the Devon masters, because he was a substitute for the summer. He enforced such rules as he knew; missing dinner was one of them. We had been swimming in the river, Finny explained; then there had been a wrestling match, then there was that sunset that anybody would want to watch, then there’d been several friends we had to see on business—he rambled on, his voice soaring and plunging
in its vibrant sound box, his eyes now and then widening to fire a flash of green across the room. Standing in the shadows, with the bright window behind him, he blazed with sunburned health. As Mr. Prud’homme looked at him and listened to the scatterbrained eloquence of his explanation, he could be seen rapidly losing his grip on sternness. “If you hadn’t already missed nine meals in the last two weeks . . .” he broke in. But Finny pressed his advantage. Not because he wanted to be forgiven for missing the meal—that didn’t interest him at all, he might have rather enjoyed the punishment if it was done in some novel and unknown way. He pressed his advantage because he saw Mr. Prud’homme was pleased,
won over in spite of himself. The master was slipping from his official position
momentarily, and it was just possible, if Phineas pressed hard enough, that there might be a flow of simple, unregulated friendliness between them, and such flows were one of Finny’s reasons for living.

This quote is a great explanation of Finnys character, because it shows Finnys power of manipulating people in use. Finny is able to manipulate people at a whim. When Finny uses his powers to try to achieve a friendship with Mr. Prud’homme explains Finny’s drive for simple pleasurable life.

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