A Separate Peace: Novel Summary: Chapter 9
Gene's own happiness deceives him from believing in the war: "peace is indivisible, and the surrounding world confusion found no reflection inside me. So I ceased to have any real sense of it" (115). To everyone's surprise, Leper enlists in the war, making it seem even more unreal to Gene. Leper's transformation is visible as he speaks of his new love for downhill skiing rather than cross-country: "It's all right to miss seeing the trees and the countryside and all the other things when you've got to be in a hurry. And when you're in a War you've got to be in a hurry. Don't you? So I guess maybe racing skiers weren't ruining the sport after all. They were preparing it, if you see what I mean, for the future. Everything has to evolve or else it perishes" (116-17). Leper now sees the war as a test for those who have been evolving correctly.
Leper, having left, becomes a mock hero at the school: "We were all at our funniest about Leper, and we all secretly hoped that Leper, that incompetent, was as heroic as we said" (119). Phineas is not part of the Leper fan club, however, and he draws Gene away from it, encouraging him to focus on his Olympic training.
Finny, always full of ideas that create interesting developments in the plot, suggests that they organize a Winter Carnival next weekend, with sports as the main attraction. During the dreary winter months, Finny's plan seems to the others an exciting break in the routine. They begin to prepare for it. Brinker, whom we learn has not enlisted because Gene didn't, takes some convincing, but finally agrees to participate in the Carnival. We learn that Brinker has grown disillusioned, withdrawing from many of his positions as president and organizer of, as well as participant in several school functions-his reason being that if he isn't going to be
in the war, he at least should not be so "civilian" (121).
The day of the Carnival arrives. Finny has arranged the multifarious collection of prizes, ranging from Finny's icebox to a forged draft registration card, to be set on a table that has been dragged outside. The opening ceremonies become rambunctious as the participants imbibe in hard cider and Gene forces some down the throat of the resisting Brinker. The games begin and Gene, who has been training, is crowned champion after excelling at the decathalon. "It wasn't the cider which made me surpass myself," he writes, "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" (128).
The celebratory atmosphere is interrupted when a classmate comes outside to deliver a telegram to Gene. The telegram is from Leper, who writes that he has escaped the war and needs help, asking Gene to come at once.