A Separate Peace Chapters 6 and 7 Summary and Analysis | SparkNotes (2023)

Listen buddy, if I can't play a sport, you'll play for me. . .

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Summary: Chapter 6

Gene attends the first church service of the school year and discovers that the school environment, with all its usual rigor and discipline, seems to have returned to normal. He lives in the same room he shared with Finny during the summer. The room across the hall that belonged to Leper now houses Brinker Hadley, a prominent figure on campus. After lunch, Gene walks down the hall but suddenly decides he doesn't want to see Brinker. He realizes that he is late for an afternoon appointment at the Crew House. Along the way, it stops at the footbridge at the junction of the Upper Devon River and Lower Naguamsett River. He imagines Finny balancing on the bow of a canoe on the river, like Finny used to.

Gene has accepted the thankless position of Deputy Senior Crew Manager and has to work for Cliff Quackenbush, a hapless and tyrannical guy. After training is finished, Quackenbush pesters Gene about why he took the job: usually boys only tolerate the assistant position in hopes of becoming manager the following year, but Gene is already a senior. Quackenbush starts to insult him, meaning Gene has to work as a manager because he can't row; In fact, as Gene knows, these positions are often filled by students with disabilities. Gene hits Quackenbush hard and they start to struggle and fall into the river. Gene leaves and Quackenbush tells him not to come back. When Gene goes home, he meets Mr. Ludsbury, the master in charge of his dorm, who berates him for taking advantage of his summer surrogacy and engaging in illegal activities: In addition to his getaway to the beach with Finny, which Gene attended, he had late night poker games and broke the rules. Gene only regrets not making better use of the summer laziness.

Mr. Ludsbury then mentions that Gene got a long distance call. Gene enters the Master's office and calls the number on the notepad and soon hears Finny's voice. Finny asks about her room and is relieved when Gene replies that he doesn't have a roommate. Finny says she just wanted to make sure Gene wasn't "crazy" like when she visited Finny and claimed she jumped off the branch. Finny then asks about drills and throws a fit when Gene tells him he's trying to become an assistant manager for the team. Finny tells Gene that he needs to work out for him, and Gene feels strangely happy at the thought that he must be destined to be a part of Finny.

Summary: Chapter 7

Brinker walks down the hall to see Gene and congratulates him on getting him such a big room. He jokingly accuses Gene of "killing" Finny to get the room. Gene weakly tries to join in the prank and then suggests they go smoke cigarettes in the basement "Butt Room". Upon their arrival, however, Brinker pretends that the Butt Room is a dungeon and announces to the others that he has brought a prisoner accused of killing his roommate. Gene tries to get away from the truth of the comment by making an exaggerated and obviously joking admission; However, he gasps when he begins to describe how he plucked Finny from the tree. Paralyzed, he challenges a younger boy to "reconstruct the crime", but the boy simply says that Gene must have pushed Finny off the branch. Gene scoffs at the boy's conclusion, drawing attention away from himself but evoking the boy's hatred. He then explains that he needs to learn French and leaves without a smoke.

To alleviate a wartime labor shortage, the boys shovel snow from the railroad and receive payment for doing so. On the way to the train station to dig, Gene finds Leper skiing in the middle of a meadow. Leper says he's looking for a beaver dam on the River Devon and invites Gene to have a look if he finds it. Gene works on the same shovel crew as Brinker and Chet Douglass, but finds the job boring and tedious. The boys dig the main line and cheer as a troop train packed with young men in uniform continues on its way. On the train home, the boys only talk about the war and their willingness to be a part of it. Quackenbush says he will finish school before enlisting as he wants to make the most of Devon's physical strength program. The other boys accuse him of being an enemy spy.

Arriving back in Devon, the boys find Leper returning from his Beaver Dam expedition. Brinker mocks him and, as they walk away, he tells Gene that he is tired of school and wants to enroll tomorrow. Gene is thrilled at the thought of leaving his old life to join the military. That night, after spending some time looking at the stars, he too decides to volunteer. However, when he returns to his room, he finds Finny there.

Analysis: Chapters 6 and 7

The change of seasons from summer to winter corresponds to a more general change in the mood of the novel, from the carefree innocence that preceded Finny's downfall to a darker time when a doom and gloom associated with impending war grips the school. This change is physically embodied in the two rivers on campus. The fresh, clear and effervescent Devon River represents the summer session and its naive, carefree character. But that river flows into the salty, ugly, and unpredictable Naguamsett, which is connected to the ocean and controlled by the great global tidal forces. This river can be seen as a symbol of an era of bitter conflict and youth disempowerment. While Finny led the activities of the previous era with his spontaneity and rebellious spirit, he is now succeeded as leader of the boys by Brinker Hadley, a rigid and stubborn personality and a stickler for authority and order. Indeed, Brinker not only helps maintain order in the classroom and dorm, but also functions as a force for order in the larger moral landscape. It is he who first suspects Gene's guilt and ultimately insists on discovering the truth and doing justice at any cost.

Read more about winter sessions in Devon.

Gene's desire to lead the team appears to be an attempt to escape Finny's shadow, as he finds himself far removed from the central physical aspect of the school's athletic program in which Finny excelled. But the irony of this attempt quickly becomes clear to the reader when Gene notes that the job often goes to students with disabilities: Gene, of course, is not disabled, but Finny is. It seems that Gene once again proves unable to separate his own identity from that of his friend. When the hideous Quackenbush (a supporting character whose preposterous name fits his role as the unloved hunk) mocks Gene for being "maimed", Gene reacts violently, even though he is not maimed. It could be argued that he's fighting for Finny - or perhaps as Finny. Gene himself is keenly aware of his growing identification with his friend, especially when Finny insists that when he, Finny, cannot exercise, Gene must exercise for him. At that moment, Gene understands that he is losing himself and becoming a part of Finny. One can understand the joy that Gene then feels as the result of a deep desire: he now loves himself so much that his greatest desire is to give up completely.

Read more about Gene and Finny's codependent relationship.

In these chapters, the war in the novel takes on added importance, since until now it was hidden in the background. as title ofa separate peacesuggests that World War II plays a central role in the fabric of the story - but without directly affecting the lives of the characters. None of the boys go into battle and none, except Leper, join the army until it graduates.a separate peaceit is a war novel without tanks, guns or bullets; it is the shadow of war and the knowledge of its approach that influences the characters. Gene, unwilling to play sports, sees football's violence as a reflection of battlefield violence and imagines tennis balls turning into spheres. Indeed, his narration reveals a sudden obsession with war and its imagery: he compares the snow to an advancing army and imagines the slow accumulation of flakes as a parallel to the almost imperceptible but constant intrusion of war into the tranquility of Devonian life.

Read more about World War II as a symbol.

Ultimately, the war had only an indirect and insidious impact on Devon students. It causes a tense sense of insecurity in young people, disturbing their previous lives, but never letting them completely loose on the new horizons it suggests. The boys know they'll have to get into the fights at some point, but as young students, all they can do is wait. They shovel snow off the train tracks while real soldiers travel on the trains on missions. The world is at war, but the boys of Devon still exist amid an illusory 'separate' peace. Nur Leper, eccentric and mild-mannered, seems unaffected by the peculiarity of his situation and simply continues with his hobbies of skiing and observing nature. In a way, leprosy is still on the rise - still innocent, not yet disgraced. But the rest of the guys progressed psychologically. So Brinker's desire to simply turn himself in to put an end to the gray and fruitless waiting seems perfectly understandable, as does Gene's decision to join him. When Gene finally abandons his plans to perform, it's because of his relationship with Finny - not because he's stopped hating the blues of waiting or the feeling of worthlessness.

Read more about how World War II relates to the book's title.

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