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Free Study Guide-A Separate Peace by John Knowles-Free Book Summary
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CHAPTER 12

Summary

When Finny falls down the stairs, the students immediately rush to his assistance. Brinker takes charge and tells everyone that Finny should not be moved. One of the students realizes that only the night nurse will be at the infirmary; therefore, he goes to find Dr. Stanpole. Another student goes to find the wrestling coach, who is an expert in first aid. When the coach arrives, he sends Gene to find a blanket, which is used to wrap Finny's body. Dr. Stanpole then arrives and examines Finny. He announces that he has broken the same leg again. The doctor then tells the student to sit Finny on a chair and carry him to the infirmary.

As the students carry Finny in the chair, Gene, out of shame, cannot get close enough to assist. He slowly moves alone to the infirmary. As he approaches, he imagines Finny answering all of the questions posed by the doctors and nurses in Latin. This thought makes Gene laugh, even though his face is covered with tears. After some time, Gene enters Finny's room. When Finny sees him, he grows angry and asks Gene whether he has come to break some other part of his body. He moves to hit Gene, but cannot reach him. Realizing that his present is upsetting to Finny, Gene apologizes and leaves the room. He then goes to the gym, where he sleeps.

When Gene returns to his room in the morning, he finds a note from the doctor asking him to bring Finny's toilet articles and clothes to the infirmary. Gene packs the needed items and takes them to Finny's room, where he finds his friend reading a magazine. Finny asks him to put the suitcase down next to him so he can look through the contents.

For awhile, Gene stands quietly in the middle of the room, looking at his friend. When the silence becomes unbearable, he tells Finny that he had tried to tell him the truth many times. Finny replies that he remembers. He then suddenly slams his fist on the suitcase and says that he wishes that there were no war. He tells Gene how he has been writing to the army, the navy, and the marines, asking for a job, but he has been rejected by all.

Finny suddenly starts crying and asks Gene why he had caused the accident. He wants to know if it was done on blind impulse, for he does not want to believe that it was planned out of some personal hatred. Gene assures him that he has never felt any hatred towards Finny. He is relieved to realize that his friend believes him at last.


Dr. Stanpole tells Gene that he is going to set Finny's broken leg bone in the afternoon and that he can come and see him again at five in the evening. After classes he comes to the infirmary and waits on a bench. When he sees Dr. Stanpole, he questions him about Finny. The doctor replies that he is dead; his heart suddenly stopped beating while Dr. Stanpole was trying to set his bone. The only explanation that the doctor can give is that some marrow must have escaped from the broken leg while he was trying to set it and gone straight to his heart. Gene is so shocked to hear the news that he is unable to cry. Even at the funeral he does not cry. He believes it is because he feels that Finny's funeral is really his own, and one cannot cry at one's own funeral.

Notes

This chapter shows a completely shattered Finny. He had wanted to trust completely in Gene, but when he learns the truth he is bitter. When Gene enters the room at the infirmary after the accident, he asks if he has come to break another part of his body, implying that he has broken his leg and his heart. Finny even tries to hit Gene, but he is unable to do so because of his crippled body. Gene, trying to justify himself to some extent, reminds Finny that he had tried on several occasions to tell him the truth. Then, realizing that his presence causes Finny pain, he apologizes and departs.

When Gene later goes back to Finny's room to take him his clothes and toiletries, Finny is civil. He tells Gene how he wishes there were no war and explains how he has written to all the branches of the military, asking for any wartime job; he has been rejected by everyone, making him feel even more miserable. Finny then questions Gene about his motives in causing the accident; he wants to know if he was done on blind impulse or out of personal hatred. Gene tries to convince Finny that he has never felt any hatred towards him.

Dr. Stanpole tells Gene the Finny's leg is to be set during the afternoon and that he can return at five o'clock to see his friend. When Gene finishes his classes, he comes to the infirmary and sits on a bench to wait for the doctor. When he sees Dr. Stanpole, he asks about Finny. Dr. Stanpole tells him that Finny died while he was setting the broken leg. Gene is too shocked to cry, even at the funeral.

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