1. Essential Element| Quote| Sentences| Symbolism| “This was the tree, and it seemed to me standing there to resemble those men, the giants of your childhood, whom you encounter years later and find that they are not merely smaller in relation to your growth, but that they are…shrunken by age. ” Ch. 1, Pg. 14| The tree is symbolized to represent something grown up from. The tree is the past, and it was so much more meaningful before rather than now. The change in importance is due to Gene thinking and reliving it constantly over time. | Symbolism| “Nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not even a death by violence. Ch. 1, Pg. 14| You receive so much information and deep emotions from this one quote. The author tells us that this boy has gone through traumatic events which have changed his life. He is hurt by the memory of it and must remember it everyday. | Conflict| “With the sensation that I was throwing my life away, I jumped into space. ” Ch. 1, Pg. 15| This was something Gene had never done. It was a leap of faith with him committing to Finny’s actions. This proves to be a major conflict as Gene would admire to be as good as Finny, but he doesn’t want their friendship to be a competition. | 2.
Essential Element| Quote| Sentences| Symbolism| “We were careless and wild, and I suppose we could be thought of as a sign of life the war was being fought to preserve. ” Ch. 2, pg. 16| Since Devon students are merely kids, they cannot even begin to imagine what war truly is, for they are innocent. Children live life carelessly and wildly without fears nor understanding of consequences. Boys of sixteen such as Gene, Brinker, Finny and Leper are full of life and think about the present rather than the future. | Faulty Persuasion| “There was no harm in envying even your best friend a little. ” Ch. 2, pg. 8| Gene is in denial attempting to make himself less guilty. He persuades his own conscious that jealousy towards his best friend is harmless. Also, the more Gene justifies his feelings toward Phineas, the more we can see he’s still ashamed of his actions. | Symbolism| “We seemed to be playing on the tame fringe of the last and greatest wilderness…. Bombs in Central Europe were completely unreal to us here…. ” Ch. 2, pg. 23| The innocent boys were safe, and the school was one of the last places in the world to be free and live regularly. The summer is a period of escape for Devon School’s students.
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Gene is confused, and he does not know whether to feel thankful or selfish. | 3. Essential Element| Quote| Sentences| Simile| “Although he was rarely conscious of it, Phineas was always being watched, like the weather. ” Pg. 33| Everyone is interested and curious of Finny’s potential. Similar to the weather, he is always being watched for out of the ordinary acts. Phineas isn’t cautious of being watched, for he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. | Conflict| “Perhaps for that reason his accomplishment took root in my mind and grew rapidly in the darkness where I was forced to hide it. ” Pg. 37| Gene had a sense Finny was cocky.
After the record breaking swim, Gene wanted to tell everyone of Finny’s achievement. Finny told him to tell no one, and Gene, in a conflict, never understands why all of a sudden he is noble. | Cultural Issues| “Exposing a sincere emotion nakedly like that at the Devon school was the next thing to suicide. ” Pg. 40| Nobody ever explained their feelings at Devon. The brotherhood issue is neglected, for no one tells their best friends how they feel. Due to this, Gene is timid to trust Finny. | 4. Essential Element| Quote| Sentences| Hyperbole| “He gave me that half-smile of his, which had won him a thousand conflicts. Pg. 40| Gene exaggerates how much Finny’s “half-smile” brings him safety from trouble. He realized Finny was trying to get away from an argument with the technique. Finny will almost win every obstacle with the smile. | Conflict| “I was more and more certainly becoming the best student in the school; Phineas was without question the best athlete, so in that way we were even. ” Pg. 40| Gene strives to be either better or equal to Finny. He has the smarts, and Phineas has the athletics. Again, he is not being a good friend by comparing themselves with each other. Allusion| “Phineas still asleep on his dune, made me think of Lazarus, brought back to life by the touch of god. ” Pg. 41| The biblical allusion makes a comparison about Finny being significant to Gene. The bitter loving Gene wakes up from an unforgettable day at the beach, and he looks back upon Finny. He sees his companion as a touch from god, a person there to help him. | 5. Essential Element| Quote| Sentences| Conflict| “Never accuse a friend of a crime if you only have a feeling he did it. ” Pg. 54| Finny had a sense it was Gene who made him fall from the tree, but he took these words from elsewhere.
The dialect in this saying appeals to the athlete since he refuses to blame Gene. Gene went on to realize the two were competitors. | Simile| “I felt like a wild man who had stumbled in from the jungle to tear the place apart. ” Pg. 62| Comparing himself to a wild man, he felt as if he came to make Finny feel worse. Finny had already suffered an accident, and Gene is making him revisit it. Gene avoids the fact he is the one who jounced the tree limb. | Conflict| “I grinned at him. ‘Oh no, I wouldn’t do that,’ and that was the most false thing, the biggest lie of all. ” Pg. 5| Gene lies to Finny. After the argument, Finny asks if his friend was going to abide by the rule and Gene lied and said yes. Gene is going to take over this conflict and be better than his friends. | 6. Essential Element| Quote| Sentences| Symbolism| “The traditions had been broken, the standards let down, all rules forgotten. ” Pg. 66| Devon was falling apart. This problem is symbolic to the relationship of Gene and Finny ever since the tragedy of Finny. Now everything around them was crumbling. | Conflict| “I didn’t trust myself in [sports], and I didn’t trust anyone else.
It was as though… boxers were in combat to the death, as though even a tennis ball might turn into a bullet. This didn’t seem completely crazy imagination in 1942, when jumping out of trees stood for abandoning a torpedoed ship. Later, in the school swimming pool, we were given the second stage in that rehearsal: after you hit the water you made big splashes with your hands, to scatter the flaming oil which would be on the surface. ” Pg. 76| We now understand how subordinate Gene is to sports. Now he’s so full of guilt about taking sports away from Finny, and he could never be as good as he was.
Also, he doesn’t have Finny with him to accomplish these sports. | Transformation| “‘Listen, pal, if I can’t play sports, you’re going to play them for me,’ and I lost part of myself to him then, and a soaring sense of freedom revealed that this must have been my purpose from the first: to become a part of Phineas. ” Pg. 78| Instead of being the athlete, Finny will stick side by side with Gene and become his trainer. Gene has an epiphany. There is a sliver of hope that comes from this that the two can have a working relationship. | 7. Essential Element| Quote| Sentences|
Paradox| “I had never been in the Naguamsett before; it seemed appropriate that my baptism there had taken place on the first day of this winter session, and that I had been thrown into it, in the middle of a fight. ” Pg. 78| Gene is astounded about where he is at right now. He believes it is paradoxical how the place where everything started is now where he is in a middle of a fight. This reflects the change taken place in the students of Devon. | Analogy| “In the same way the war, beginning almost humorously with announcements about [no more] maids and days spent at apple-picking, commenced its invasion of the school.
The early snow was commandeered as its advance guard. ” Pg. 84| Gene emphasizes how talk about enlisting for war spontaneously popped up at the school. The pressure for him to join his excessive. Gene is not at all ready to fight, and he needs the maids and safety of the now-invaded school. | Symbolism| “[Up above] the cold Yankee stars ruled this night. They did not invoke in me thoughts of God, or sailing before the mast, or some great love as crowded night skies at home had done…. ” Pg. 92| The quote represents that Gene is completely on his own.
There will be no one else to him with his decisions, and miracles will not magically appear to guide him. He realizes that back at school he had so much people to for help from. | 8. Essential Element| Quote| Sentences| Symbolism| “So the war swept over like a wave at the seashore, gathering power and size as it bore on us, overwhelming in its rush, seemingly inescapable, and then at the last moment eluded by a word from Phineas; I had simply ducked, that was all, and the wave’s concentrated power had hurtled harmlessly overhead. ” Pg. 01| Initially, Gene was extremely intimidated by the upcoming distress to enlist. Then, by the words that Finny spoke of, the war missed him completely. This displays how Finny’s ways seem to work according to plan. | Dialogue| “His face froze. ‘Because I’ve suffered,’ he burst out. ” Pg. 110| We finally catch when Finny admits to being hurt by the whole situation. He doesn’t explain everything, but we are at least vindicated by his word. There had been so much pressure built up in him that he just had to let it out. | Symbolism| “But one day after our chaplain, Mr.
Carhart, had become very moved by his own sermon in chapel about God in the Foxholes, I came away thinking that if Finny’s opinion of the war was unreal, Mr. Carhart’s was at least as unreal. But of course I didn’t believe him. ” Pg. 112| First, Gene ignores the information from Leper, and then he discounts Finny’s beliefs. Now, Gene begins to distrust any claim he has doubts about. This is a change with previous Gene chapters before. | 9. Essential Element| Quote| Sentences| Dialogue| “For hours, and sometimes for days, I fell without realizing it into the private explanation of the world….
What deceived me was my own happiness; for peace is indivisible, and the surrounding world confusion found no reflection inside me. So I ceased to have any real sense of it. ” Pg. 115| At this point, I was getting nervous for Gene. I was afraid he would harm himself since he was so lost here. There was too much guilt on his shoulders, but Finny was not there for Gene to talk to him. | Personification| “Winter’s occupation seems to have conquered, overrun and destroyed everything, so that now there is no longer any resistance movement left in nature… nd now winter itself, an old, corrupt, tired conqueror, loosens its grip on the desolation… sick of victory and enfeebled by the absence of challenge, it begins itself to withdraw from the ruined countryside. ” Pg. 120| Winter represents a lot of hardship to Gene. It came and took Finny and his trust away leaving Gene with only himself. Winter also asks of him to enlist in the war. | Imagery| “… for on this day even the schoolboy egotism of Devon was conjured away….
It wasn’t the cider which made me surpass myself, it was this liberation we had torn from the gray encroachments of 1943, the escape we had concocted, this afternoon of momentary, illusory, special and separate peace. ” Pg. 128| Finally, some actual relief for the boys of Devon. Sure it was only for a day, but it got there mind off of there current nuances. The quote also shows that the boys can have strong chemistry together and have a good time. | 10. Essential Element| Quote| Sentences| Imagery| “The sun was the blessing of the morning, the one celebrating element, an aesthete with no purpose except to shed radiance.
Everything else was sharp and hard, but this Grecian sun evoked joy from every angularity and blurred with brightness the stiff face of the countryside. As I walked… the wind knifed at my face, but this sun caressed the back of my neck. ” Pg. 132| There wasn’t much to look forward to for Gene when going to see Leper. However, Gene still enjoyed his focus on the sun although it was ruined later by the conversations with Leper. I’m guessing the author added these details about nature to also transition to the personality of Leper. | Transformation| “Fear seized my stomach like a cramp.
I didn’t care what I said to him now; it was myself I was worried about. For if Leper was psycho it was the army which had done it to him, and I and all of us were on the brink of the army. ” Pg. 137| Here, Gene goes from nervous about the war to so scared to death that he is ready to have an accident in his pants. Now, Gene realizes he will be next to face the war. Myself, I would not enlist either basing off what Leper described. | Dialogue| “‘You always were a savage underneath. I always knew that only I never admitted it. But in the last few weeks… I admitted a hell of a lot to myself…
It’s you we happen to be talking about now. Like a savage underneath… like that time you knocked Finny out of the tree… Like that time you crippled him for life. ‘” Pg. 139| Gene, even myself, can’t believe what he is hearing right now. However, Gene knows what he is saying is partly true. He is working up a sweat to figure out what he will do to respond to this. | 11. Essential Element| Quote| Sentences| Symbolism| “By now I no longer needed this vivid false identity; now I was acquiring, I felt, a sense of my own real authority and worth, I had had many new experiences and I was growing up. Pg. 148| This is how we know Gene has grown up the most out of everyone. Despite all of the consequences of his experiences, he has learned the most out of it all. He will live with all of his mistakes and lessons learned. | Symbolism| “He shook his head sharply, closing his eyes, and then he turned to regard me with a handsome mask of a face. ‘I just don’t care. Never mind,’ and he started across the marble floor toward the doors. ” Pg. 158| I think this is Phineas’ denial at the extreme. He uses his face again, but Gene knows by experience what it means for him to express it.
Finny does not want to know anymore, for he only wants a happy relationship with his Gene. | Simile| “‘the sun was blazing all around them… and the rays of the sun were shooting past them, millions of rays shooting past them like — like golden machine-gun fire…. The two of them looked as black as — as black as death standing up there with this fire burning all around them… [then] they moved like an engine. ‘” Pg. 166-167| The figurative language used here accents the fierceness of the people of the trial. The dark type of description used points out what they’re intentions are truly for.
They are ready to pounce on any truth they can discover. | 12. Essential Element| Quote| Sentences| Symbolism| “I heard the engine laboriously recede into the distance, and I continued to listen until not only had it ceased but my memory of how it sounded had also ceased. The light had gone out in the room and there was no sound coming from it. The only noise was the peculiarly bleak whistling of the wind through the upper branches. ” Pg. 175| It’s quiet to show how everyone there is in shock to what has occurred. They are unsure of what to do, but Gene is especially uncertain.
Then, it mentions the noise of the branches symbolizing the first occasion of injury to Finny. | Symbolism| “I knew what I said was important and right, and my voice found that full tone voices have when they are expressing something long-felt and long-understood and released at last…. ‘You’d get things so scrambled up nobody would know who to fight any more. You’d make a mess, a terrible mess, Finny, out of the war. ‘” Pg. 182| This is the first occurrence of someone recognizing and crying a flaw of Finny, and it is Gene who does it. He must have known that and kept it within himself before to finally let it out now.
Truly though, it was the right time to say it in front of him. | Faulty Persuasion| “I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral, and you do not cry in that case. ” Pg. 186| Sure a part of you also died, but how could you not show any pain when it was your closest friend? Could you not say you’re sorry? He may not intend to be selfish or rude, but it doesn’t look good to readers such as myself. | 13. Essential Element| Quote| Sentences| Pathos| “Because it seemed clear that wars were not made by generations and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart. Pg. 193| Gene tells us this from the experiences and emotions he has gained. He doesn’t want people to blame ideas on his generation by the fact that it happened during their time so they should be blamed. This is what he has realized, and we should accept it for those reasons. | Resolution| “During the time I was with him, Phineas created an atmosphere in which I continued now to live, a way of sizing up the world with erratic and entirely personal reservations, letting its rocklike facts sift through and be accepted only a little at a time, only as much as he could assimilate without a sense of chaos and loss.
No one else I have ever met could do this…. When [others] began to feel that there was this overwhelmingly hostile thing in the world with them, then the simplicity and unity of their characters broke and they were not the same again. ” Pg. 194| This quote expresses how much Gene truly loved and gained out of Finny. He will forever live with Finny’s ideas, and he will try to carry his life onwards as if he owes him. No one was as resilient Finny he says. | Conflict| “I never killed anybody and I never developed an intense level of hatred for the enemy.
Because my war ended before I ever put on a uniform; I was on active duty all my time at school; I killed my enemy there. Only Phineas never was afraid, only Phineas never hated anyone. ” Pg. 195| Gene does not detail who his “enemy” was, and we are left to decide for ourselves whether he refers to Finny or to his own inner demons. To Finny, everyone was a friend; no one deserved fear and hatred. This innocence contributed to a moral superiority in Finny; but it also led to his destruction, the novel suggests, since it rendered him unable to anticipate, and cope with, the revelation of betrayal. As the novel opens, Gene Forrester returns to Devon, the New Hampshire boarding school he attended during World War II. Gene has not seen Devon for 15 years, and so he notices the ways in which the school has changed since he was a student there. Strangely, the school seems newer, but perhaps, he thinks, the buildings are just better taken care of now that the war is over. Gene walks through the campus on a bleak, rainy November afternoon, revisiting the buildings and fields he remembers — and especially two places he recalls as “fearful sites. At the First Academic Building, he enters the foyer to look closely at the white marble steps. Then he trudges across the playing fields to the river in search of a particular tree and finally recognizes it by its long limb over the water and the scars on its trunk. The tree, he thinks, is smaller than he remembers. The chapter section ends with Gene heading back to shelter through the rain. The second section opens during the summer of 1942 when Gene is 16. He is attending a special Summer Session at Devon, designed to speed up education to prepare the boys for the military draft in their senior year.
Gene stands at the same tree with his best friend and roommate, Phineas (nicknamed Finny), and three other boys, Elwin Lepellier (Leper), Chet Douglass, and Bobby Zane. The tree seems enormous to Gene, but Finny suddenly decides to climb it and jump into the river, just like the Devon 17 year olds, who are training for military service. Finny jumps and dares Gene to follow. Against his better judgment, Gene climbs the tree and also jumps, but the three others refuse. The shared danger of jumping brings Finny and Gene closer.
While the rest of the boys hurry ahead at the sound of the bell for dinner, the roommates playfully wrestle until they are late for the meal. They slip into the dormitory, where they read their English assignments and play their radio (against school rules), until it is time for bed. The morning after the boy’s first jump from the tree, Mr. Prud’homme, a substitute Master for the summer, scolds Gene and Finny for missing dinner. Finny tells Mr. Prud’homme that they were late because they were jumping out of the tree to prepare for military service — a far-fetched excuse he weaves into a long, funny explanation.
Finny’s friendly chatter charms Mr. Prud’homme, and the Master lets the boys off without punishment. That day Finny wears a very un-Devon bright pink shirt, and its unconventional color draws Gene’s attention. The shirt, Finny insists, is an “emblem” — a celebration of the first Allied bombing of Central Europe. Later, at a formal tea, Finny wins over the strict Mr. Patch-Withers with his “emblem. ” Finny even gets an appreciative laugh from the faculty and their wives when they see that he has also used his Devon tie as a belt, a gesture of disrespect for which anyone else would have been punished.
After the tea, Gene and Finny walk across the playing fields talking. Finny declares that he does not believe the Allies bombed Central Europe, and Gene, surrounded by the peace and serenity of the elms, agrees. Bombs in Central Europe, Gene reflects, seem unreal to a boy at Devon. As they approach the river, Finny dares Gene to jump out of the tree again. When Gene accepts, Finny offers to jump at the same time, to “cement” their “partnership. ” They also decide to form the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session, in which all members will have to jump from the tree.
On the limb, Gene turns to talk to Finny and suddenly loses his balance. Instantly, Finny grabs Gene’s arm, steadying him, and then both jump successfully into the river. Only later, after dinner, does Gene realize that Finny’s quick response may have saved his life. As this chapter opens, Finny is recruiting the other boys for the Suicide Society. Every night, Gene and Finny jump from the tree and then watch their friends jump in order to join the club. This nightly meeting is the only scheduled activity Finny never misses. Gene goes along every time, but secretly he hates it.
Early in the summer, Finny becomes dissatisfied with the school sports program — badminton, in particular — and decides the boys should make up their own game (blitzball). He hurls a heavy medicine ball at Gene and challenges him to do something with it. Gene runs wildly with it, is tackled by the other boys, while Finny calls out plays, improvises rules on the run, and generally makes up the game as the boys play it. Chaotic blitzball turns out to be the hit of the summer, and Finny, naturally, proves to be the best player. In the next section of the chapter, Gene remembers the time Finny broke the school swimming record.
The two boys are alone in the pool when Finny notices a record from 1940 and decides to try to break it. With Gene as his timekeeper, Finny beats the record by . 7 seconds, but there are no witnesses so the time will not count. When Gene encourages his friend to try again the next day to make it official, Finny refuses and asks Gene not to speak about it to anyone. Finny then proposes a trip to the beach. Gene feels he should be studying for a trigonometry test, but agrees anyway. In violation of school rules, the boys ride their icycles to the shore, where they swim in the ocean, eat hot dogs, drink beer, and sleep that night among the sand dunes. Just before falling asleep, Finny confides to Gene that he considers him his “best pal. ” Gene realizes that he should tell Finny he feels the same about him, but says nothing. The boys ride back from the beach to Devon, arriving just in time for Gene’s trigonometry test — the first examination Gene fails. Blitzball and the Suicide Society occupy the rest of the day and evening, and Gene begins to suspect that Finny is deliberately keeping him from studying.
Instead of a “best pal,” Gene begins to see his roommate as a deadly rival. Finny already stands unchallenged as the best athlete at Devon, and Gene hopes to even up their status by becoming the best student. He sees Finny’s games and rule-breaking — and even Finny’s occasional studying — as a rival’s sneaky attempts to make him fail. The night before an important French examination, Finny announces that Leper is finally going to jump from the tree and so become a member of the Suicide Society.
Unconvinced that Leper will jump and suspicious that Finny is really using this as an excuse to keep him from studying, Gene bursts out angrily at his roommate. Surprised and concerned, Finny tells Gene to stay and study, if that is what he wants to do. But Gene goes to the tree, confused by thoughts that perhaps Finny is not his jealous rival after all. When they arrive at the tree, Finny proposes a double jump. Both boys climb the tree and stand on the limb above the river. Close to the trunk, Gene jounces the limb and watches Finny lose his balance and fall heavily to the bank.
Then Gene walks out onto the limb and jumps easily into the river. As the chapter opens, Gene hears from the school doctor, Dr. Stanpole, that Finny’s leg has been “shattered” in the fall. Numbed by the terrible accident and fearing that he will be accused of causing it, Gene stays in his room. There he dresses in his roommate’s clothes (including the pink shirt) and feels, for a time, as if he has become Finny — sharp, optimistic, confident. But when the moment passes, Gene again feels dread and guilt about what he has done to his friend.
After chapel one morning, Dr. Stanpole tells Gene that he may visit Finny in the infirmary. Finny is recovering, Dr. Stanpole explains to Gene, but he will never play in any sport again. Gene bursts into tears at the news. Gently, Dr. Stanpole encourages Gene to cheer up, for Finny’s sake. Gene is the only person Finny has asked to see. Gene arrives at the infirmary, certain that Finny will accuse him of causing the accident. In their conversation, Gene probes to see whether Finny realizes what made him fall.
Although he has a vague sense of Gene’s involvement in the accident, Finny pushes these thoughts aside and apologizes to his friend for suspecting him. Gene suddenly feels he must tell Finny the truth, but he is prevented by the arrival of Dr. Stanpole, who ends the visit. That fall, on his way to Devon, Gene visits Finny in his home outside Boston, where he is still recuperating. There Gene admits jouncing the limb deliberately in order to make Finny fall. Finny refuses to believe his friend, and when Gene insists he is telling the truth, Finny tells him to go away.
Realizing that he is hurting Finny, Gene stops the talk, mumbling an excuse about being tired from the train ride. Finny tells Gene that he will return to Devon soon. The roommates part as friends, with Gene promising, falsely, that he will not start “living by the rules. ” In this chapter, Gene returns to Devon for the Winter Session and notices immediately that the freedom of the summer days has come to an end. The ordinary business of the school term as well as changes due to the war now dictate life on campus, creating an atmosphere that is both serious and rigid.
As Gene hurries to report as new assistant manager at the Crew House, he thinks of Phineas’ trick of balancing on a canoe and then tumbling headlong into the water. The thought pleases Gene, because it brings back the carefree image of his friend before his accident. Gene meets Cliff Quackenbush, the crew manager, who treats him with contempt. Disgusted by Gene’s inexperience and lack of motivation, Quackenbush calls him “maimed” — a remark that prompts Gene to hit Quackenbush in the face. In the struggle that follows, both boys end up in the water, and a drenched Gene leaves for his dormitory.
On the way to his room, Gene meets Mr. Ludsbury, a strict Devon master who warns him that the wild antics of the summer will not be tolerated any longer. Saddened by this stern lecture, Gene is only mildly curious when Mr. Ludsbury tells him he has a long-distance phone call. It turns out to be Phineas on the phone, calling from home. In a friendly conversation, Finny again dismisses Gene’s confession and expresses relief that they will still be roommates. The only conflict arises when Gene tells Finny about going out for assistant crew manager, a position usually taken by younger students with no athletic talents.
Outraged that Gene would even consider such a position, Finny tells his friend that he must go out for sports. Since Finny can no longer compete, Gene must take his place. With this pronouncement, Gene feels as if he is becoming part of Finny. This chapter opens when Brinker Hadley, a leader of the senior class, visits Gene in his room. Brinker teases Gene about having a room to himself, suggesting that Gene has “fixed it” that way on purpose. Gene laughs off the remark uneasily, feeling as if Brinker is hinting that he deliberately caused Finny’s accident.
Later in the basement Butt Room where students gather to smoke, Brinker pushes Gene into a crowd of boys and openly accuses him of “doing away with his roommate. ” In response, Gene makes up a long, silly list of crimes he committed against Finny, stopping short of actually admitting to his part in the fall. At this point, he dares a younger boy to guess what happened at the tree. When the boy answers that Gene pushed Finny off the limb, Gene tells him he is wrong and brushes him aside, exposing the younger boy to the ridicule of the others.
Making an excuse about having to study, Gene escapes the awkward situation. As the winter approaches, Devon students start to take on the work usually done by men now in the service. For a few days, the boys pick apples. Later, with the first heavy snow, they volunteer to dig out the railroad yards so that trains can pass. Only Leper stays behind, to ski through the countryside and take photographs. The work on the railroad exhausts the boys, and the sight of the first train to pass — a troop train carrying young recruits — makes the students feel childish.
Talk turns to training programs and recruitment — activities much more meaningful, they decide, than school. When Quackenbush insists that he will stay at Devon the whole year, the others sneer at him and question his patriotism. As the returning students reach the school grounds, Leper appears, delighted with his day’s skiing and proud of the photographs he has shot of a beaver dam. Protective of his friend, Gene congratulates him, but Brinker barely contains his annoyance. When they are alone, Brinker declares impulsively to Gene that he is going to enlist immediately.
Excited by Brinker’s sudden decision and determined to face the challenge of the war himself, Gene bounds up to his room. But when he opens the door, he finds that Finny is back, and the plans about enlisting suddenly fade away. As the chapter opens, Finny teases Gene and complains about the lack of maid service in the dormitories. When Gene says that the inconvenience is minor, considering the war, Finny murmurs his doubts about whether there really is a war at all. The next morning, as Finny bounds around the room on crutches, Brinker comes by to ask Gene if he is ready to go enlist.
When Finny is shocked by this, Gene suddenly changes his mind and jokingly refuses to sign up with Brinker. In the teasing that follows, Brinker receives his first nickname at Devon — “Yellow Peril. “Gene worries that Finny will fall again, because the snow and ice outside and the marble floors inside make it difficult for him to get around campus on crutches. Finny decides to miss class and go to the gym instead, a long and exhausting walk for him. Gene realizes that Finny’s natural athlete’s way of walking will never return, and Finny in turn tells Gene that he must become an athlete in his place.
Finny also tells Gene there is no war really — only fat old men pretending that it exists to punish young people who might have fun otherwise. These old men have faked the food shortage, too, Finny insists, so that all the best food can be shipped to the rich men’s exclusive clubs. When Gene asks how he knows about this deception, Finny blurts out bitterly that he knows because he has suffered. He confides to Gene that he once hoped to compete in the Olympics, but now Gene will have to take his place in the 1944 Games. When Gene brings up the war, Finny reminds him that there is no war.
The boys begin a strict routine, with Gene helping Finny in his studies and Finny training Gene for the Olympics. One day, as he runs a challenging course laid out by Finny, Gene finds, to his surprise, that he can push himself beyond exhaustion to a second wind. When Mr. Ludsbury comes out to ask Gene if he is training to become a commando, Finny proudly declares that they are aiming for the 1944 Olympics. Mr. Ludsbury laughs briefly, but sternly remind them that the war is more important than any games. Finny responds flatly, “no” — an answer that catches Mr. Ludsbury by surprise and sends him on his way.
Finny wonders why the master believes the lie about the war, and then it comes to him — Mr. Ludsbury is thin, and only the fat old men know the secret about the war. As the last chapter opens, the war has come to Devon in the form of the Parachute Riggers’ School. The School occupies the Far Common, with jeeps, trucks, and sewing machines. Gene goes with Brinker to the Butt Room, where they have a talk about military service with Mr. Hadley, Brinker’s father. Mr. Hadley sneers at the soldiers learning to sew and cheerily asks Gene which branch of service he prefers.
Gene explains that he is planning to join the Navy in order to avoid being drafted into the infantry, while Brinker, too, and has made a careful choice, deciding on the relative safety of the Coast Guard. This disgusts Mr. Hadley, who urges them to think about how their military service will sound when they talk about it in the future. The safest choice may not be the wisest choice in the long run, he explains. Afterward, Brinker complains of his father’s hearty enthusiasm for war service, especially since the older generation will not face any risk in the war that Brinker insists they caused.
Brinker’s thinking reminds Gene of Finny’s theory about the fake-war conspiracy of “fat old men. ” But for himself, Gene decides that the war arose from something “ignorant” within humanity itself. As Gene empties his locker to leave Devon for military service, he thinks of Finny and their friendship, which still remains a vital part of his life. Later, from his adult perspective, Gene believes that his war actually ended before he ever entered military service. He sees now that he killed his “enemy” at Devon, while Finny, always unique, never saw anyone or anything as his enemy.