Coffman 1 Samantha Coffman Period 5 April 17, 2010 Codependency In the novel, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, the main

characters, Gene and Phineas, develop an indestructible relationship. Throughout the course of the novel this relationship undergoes alteration from sincerity to betrayal. At first, Gene is envious of Phineas because of Phineas’s self-confidence. After the incident at the tree, their relationship changes into a codependent one. Gene and Phineas develop a connection during a time of war, and with mutual support, motivate each other to live normal lives. Ultimately, because this friendship kills Phineas, their companionship is a more destructive and negative one. In the first chapter, Gene describes Phineas in a very descriptive yet unemotional way. Gene states, “For such an extraordinary athlete-even as a Lower Middler Phineas had been the best athlete in the school- he was not spectacularly built. He was my height- five feet eight and a half inches (I had been claiming five feet nine before he became my roommate, but he had said in public with that simple self-shocking acceptance of his, “No, you’re the same height I am, five eight and a half. Were on the short side”). He weighed a hundred fifty pounds, a galling ten pounds more than I did, which flowed from his legs to torso around shoulders to arms and full strong neck in an uninterrupted unity of strength” (16). Gene reveals his admiration for Phineas in this passage. Although this quotation seems simple and unbiased, Gene makes subtle comments that foreshadow a rivalry between the two boys. When Gene compares their height, a potential rivalry is revealed, along with Gene’s paranoia. Gene also refers to Phineas’s “shocking

Peer pressure plays a huge role in the development of Gene’s identity. Although this type of relationship between friends is common. In this quotation. because he and Phineas are too close. his anger grows deeper.Coffman 2 self-acceptance”. the peer pressure he feels is too intense to ignore. their relationship turns into a deep emotional one. When Gene sees Phineas being able to get away with anything. In the second half of the novel. in the midst . In chapter two. the codependent relationship between Gene and Phineas reflects more on Gene’s inability to accept himself than Phineas’s wanting to surpass Gene. Gene begins to refer to their friendship as a rivalry. he repeats sentences several times to reassure himself. and never do the readers see Phineas’s perspective. Gene jumps off the tree. Throughout the novel. the incident at the tree. Gene develops his own “war” with Phineas. “What was I doing up here anyway? Why did I let Finny talk me into stupid things like this? Was he getting some kind of hold over me?” (17). Although Gene didn’t want to do this. creates an unnatural codependent relationship. In the beginning of the novel. Because of this. All of Gene’s anger toward Phineas’s superiority stems from Gene’s insecurities. the competition Gene creates between him and Phineas is just a figment of Gene’s imagination. Gene becomes paranoid about his relationship with Phineas. the readers see the inner thoughts of Gene. Gene has no control over his actions. Gene admires Phineas but this admiration grows into jealousy. Gene is uncomfortable with himself and witnessing that nothing seems to phase Phineas is shocking to Gene. Gene fails to have boundaries for himself and as a result succumbs to the peer pressure Phineas puts on him. Ironically. The friendship between Gene and Phineas can be characterized in two ways. In chapter one. This realization for Gene will arose problems later in the novel.

This influential event is a reflection of Gene’s anger toward Phineas. It made Finny seem to unusual for not friendship. . and then my knees bent and I jounced the limb. “I bust out crying into my hands. Gene says. Gene says. which creates a distorted reality for Gene. There was no harm in envying your best friend a little” (25). To keep silent about this amazing happening deepened the shock for me. This quote reveals Gene’s feelings about Finny’s success. “It was hypnotism. With unthinking sureness I moved out on the limb and jumped into the river.Coffman 3 of a real war. his balance gone. every trace of fear of this forgotten” (60). but too unusual for rivalry” (45). I was beginning to see that Phineas could get away with anything. I couldn’t help envying him that a little. I cried for Phineas and for myself and for this doctor who believed in facing things. broke through the little branches below and hit the bank with a sickening thud. I had experienced a feeling that also can be described in one word-shock. so he can rid his guilt. “Holding firmly to the trunk. which was perfectly normal. I took a step toward him. Most of all I cried because of the kindness. Gene will regret jouncing the limb later because of the huge impact it will have on his future. Finny. Gene feels enough guilt to tell Phineas what really happened. It was the first clumsy action I had ever seen him make. Phineas’s inability to believe that Gene caused the accident displays Phineas’s innocence. This envy fuels Gene to excel at everything. Immediately following the incident. “When I looked down at the stopwatch and realized a split second before I permitted my face to show it or my voice to announce it that Finny had broken a school record. which I had no expected” (64). Gene says. As the novel progresses Gene feels the need to tell Phineas the truth. The anger and envy that stem out of this will fuel Gene to hurt Finny both physically and emotionally.

Gene says. he knew or should know that too. and dreams of enlistment and escape and a clean start lost their meaning for me” (108). I had told him. The moment Gene jounced the limb. an insecure boy who depends on Phineas because of pity and admiration. In this case. Gene says. Even Brinker notices Gene’s pity for Gene and points it out to him. Their relationship was like an open wound. any hope of enlistment disappeared. This quote is a perfect example of Gene’s need for Phineas. But there was no mistaking the shield of remoteness in his face and voice. He tries to justify not enlisting by saying Phineas needs Gene to stay. even though Gene emotionally killed Phineas long before that point. I had even told him. I was the least trustworthy person he had ever met. Gene killed Phineas and in a way killed himself. Although at the beginning their relationship seemed like a harmless friendship. This pity forces Gene to focus his life on Phineas. . But. In some way he needed me. and Gene depended too much on Phineas.Coffman 4 In chapter eight Gene shows his codependence on Phineas even more than before. He needed me. Gene is convincing himself that he needs to stay for Phineas. the codependence between the two was a negative one. everything changed on that fateful day at the tree. He wanted me around. because they have become one. “I did not cry then or ever about Finny. and you do not cry in that case” (194). “I could hardly believe it. Gene depends on Phineas and by Gene repeating himself the readers understand Gene. as stated earlier. there was no closure. Phineas was shocked at the idea of me leaving. but it was so plainly printed in the closed expression of his face to mistake. I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral. too discernable beneath the even tone of his voice. The war then passed away from me. In the end of the novel Phineas dies. I did not cry even when I stood watching him being lowered into his family’s strait-laced burial ground outside of Boston. I knew that.

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