Literary Quote of the Day: Finny’s Fall

One of my favorite novels I came across by accident when I was teaching 10th grade back in the early 2000s. It’s called A Separate Peace by John Knowles and it contains our quote of the day.

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Intro Music

The novel’s protagonist, Gene, has issues. His best friend has a limp, a permanent limp probably and Gene is the one who caused it. Don’t you hate it when in a fit of jealousy you cause your best friend to fall off a tree limb and he becomes permanently crippled?

At this point of the novel, Gene debuts as the assistant crew manager on the rowing team. He remarks on the occasion.

Quote: “I supposed that Quackenbush was studying me to see if he could detect a limp. But I knew that his flat black eyes would never detect my trouble” (77).

Analysis: Gene knows that Quackenbush likes to assert his authority over those whom he considers inferior, on account of his own inferiority. It was common for the assistant crew manager, Gene’s position on the rowing team, to have some physical malady that prevented him from participating in a sport. Gene’s true limp, however, existed metaphorically in his soul. By expressing his deficiency in this manner, Gene highlights his desire to be just like Finny, whose limp is real, and whose limp he caused.

There’s a lot of outward actions covering up inward insecurities. Gene’s best friend and everyone’s favorite student, Finny, pretends to not care about things like going off to war, yet we discover that he dreamed of going off to war the entire time, but cannot because of his injury (caused by Gene).

We see the war theme later in the novel:

Quote: “They seemed to be having a wonderful time, their uniforms looked new and good; they were clean and energetic; they were going places” (97).

Analysis: This ironic description of soldiers going off to war belies the danger they would soon face. No matter how much students at Devon attempted to keep the outside world from encroaching, they could not.

This novel is all about outward appearances masking inward truths.

As a teacher, I know what that’s like.

We walk into classroom for the first time putting out an air of confidence, but inwardly we are quaking, at least I was for most of my first year. As the year went on, I noticed that the more prepared my lesson was for the day, the more confident I truly felt.

That’s why I created That’s also why I combined most of the lesson plan units I’ve created into one pdf file and have made it available to you, my loyal listener. It contains complete units plans for 33 short stories, 11 poetry units, all types of writing, 3 novels, 2 Shakespearean plays, and an epic poem. You could literally not have to create a lesson plan for the entire year and still not get through everything. Head over to and check out our novel, short story, writing, and poetry unit plans. Link in the show notes.

Classroom Application

Speaking of the classroom. Here’s an idea: Put together a 2-column chart. What the character portrays could be the left column and what the truth is could be the right column.

Life Lesson

Let’s get back to the quote and the characters’ need to hide what they’re truly feeling. As you probably are aware we have students posing all day every day, pretending to be something they’re not, perhaps hiding secrets from each other. Let’s take that into account when we instruct, converse with, and interact.


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