Madeline Reinach October Metathesiophobia

Category: Psychology
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John Knolwes’ A Separate Peace suggests the real enemy is not the Germans or the Japanese but Gene’s fear of becoming an extension of Finny. During the careless summer of 1943, Finny insidiously begins to captivate Gene in his innocent, peaceful world by using his charm and incredulous personality to change Gene’s identity. After Finny shatters his leg, yet keeps a positive outlook on life, he decides to change Gene into an Olympic athlete because he will never have an opportunity to fulfill his athletic dream. Despite the war, the winter session continues as Gene receives an ominous letter from Leper asking him to come to his house; accordingly, Leper went AWOL from training camp due to his illusory visions of faces on his corporal’s head, resulting in him being pronounced crazy. After Finny dies, Gene realizes part of him has died too. The enemy is a metaphor for Gene’s fear of becoming an extension of Finny. Gene denies the fact he is changing his identity to become similar to Finny until Gene has a sudden realization that Finny’s funeral is also his own: “I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral, and you do not cry in that case.” (194) The enemy killed at Devon by Gene Forrester is his fear of becoming an extension of Finny. After Finny’s leg is shattered, being crippled becomes a part of who he is. Since Gene fears metamorphoses into Finny, Gene, therefore, fears being crippled (transitive property). When Gene begins his assistant manager position at the row house, Quackenbush mocks him for having the job most disabled students have by saying “‘listen you maimed son-of-a-bitch…'” (79) After Quackenbush taunts Gene, Gene “hit him hard across the face” (79) and they both wrestle and end up in the water. Gene has come to be very defensive and fervent, much like Finny, and has lost his passive character. Gene punches Quackenbush because “the realization that there was someone who was [crippled] flashed over me [Gene]” (79) causing Gene to become defensive about taking on some of Finny’s characteristics. The pioneering jump for Finny and Gene is characterized differently for both characters.

Finny finds the jump as a “contribution to the war effort” (16); Gene feels “with the sensation that [he] was throwing [his] life away, [he] jumped into space.” (17) Gene’s anxiety regarding jumping from the tree and his thought of “throwing his life away” (17) shows his fear of becoming disabled, which is the part of Finny he’s trying to avoid becoming. Finny’s disability is one of his prominent traits, so, since Gene fears the integration of Finny into his own characteristics, Gene fears becoming disabled. Until Finny’s funeral, Gene denies all signs he may be transforming into Finny. Leper’s experience in training camp, and his psychotic instances regarding identities, is an amplification for Gene’s identity crisis: “‘that was when things began to change. One day I couldn’t make out what was happening to the corporal’s face. It kept changing into faces I knew from somewhere else, and then I began to think he looked like me and then he… changed into a woman…'” (150) Leper’s experience in the army is similar to that of Gene’s experience at school. Due to the fact, the corproal’s face changed to different people, their identities became confused. Similarly, for Gene at Devon, his face has metaphorically changed into Finny’s, suggesting Gene has become Finny. Gene can only justify what Leper has been saying about him being a savage or the corporal’s face changing by thinking that “none of this could have been said by the Leper of the beaver dam.” (143) Gene justifies what is said by comparing Leper before the war to Leper after the war. After Leper describes his psychotic instances and is trying to tell Gene more details, Gene shouts “do you think I want to hear every gory detail! Shut up! I don’t care! I don’t care what happened to you, Leper. I don’t give a damn! Don’t you understand that? This has nothing to do with me! Nothing at all! I don’t care!” (151) Gene is again denying the relationship between his experience and Leper’s experience because Gene is afraid of reality. Gene is scared of changing identities, so he denies anything to do with the subject. Gene has already changed his persona because he is more defensive and aggressive than he is passive and cautious.

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As Gene’s identity coalesces with Finny’s, Gene is still indignant towards the real truth. The night Finny is in the infirmary and Gene is trying to discover who he is, Gene decides to “put on his [Finny’s] clothes.” (62) Standing in front of the mirror, Gene has Finny’s “humorous expression in my [Gene’s] face, his sharp, optimistic awareness… but it seemed, standing there in Finny’s triumphant shirt, that I would never stumble through the confusions of my own character again.” (62) Gene won’t be confused by his character again because he will become Finny and know more about Finny’s character than his own. Trying on Finny’s clothes is a physical example of Gene assuming Finny’s identity. Another physical amalgamation is when Finny says “‘listen, pal, if I can’t play sports, you’re going to play them for me.'” (85) Since Finny is disabled, Gene will assume Finny’s athletism and will “become a part of Phineas.” (85) At Finny’s funeral, Gene finally realizes his identity change: “I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral, and you do not cry in that case.” (194) Gene is altering his characteristics, personality, and clothing in order to become an extension of Finny. Gene kills his enemy at Devon, even before he reaches the frontlines of World War II. Gene’s enemy is his fear of becoming an extension of Finny. When Gene comes back to Devon 15 years after graduating, he describes walking on campus as “unfamiliar with the absence of fear and what that was like, I had not been able to identify its presence… the fear I had lived in, which must mean that in the interval I had succeeded in a very important undertaking: I must have made my escape from it.” (10) Gene is able to escape his fear of becoming Finny because Finny is dead. Gene is no longer under the influence of Finny trying to make Gene something he is not. Gene may have jounced the limb because he was envious of Finny, or he realized that harming Finny may destroy his character, no longer forcing Gene to be an extension of Finny.

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Madeline Reinach October Metathesiophobia. (2019, Jun 25). Retrieved from