Bertrand Russell said, “Envy is one of the most potent causes of unhappiness. It is a universal and most unfortunate aspect of human nature because not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his envy, but also wishes to inflict misfortune on others. ” This is displayed perfectly in A Separate Piece by John Knowles, where green with envy, Gene jounces the limb in hopes to hurt Phineas. He is jealous of Phineas’ charisma, upset that Phineas keeps putting him into situations he doesn’t want to be in, and Gene also knows he isn’t as good a person as Phineas.
Not only is Phineas impulsive and daring, he is also very charismatic. Gene is jealous of Phineas’ charisma and ability to talk himself out of trouble. As Gene states in chapter two, “I was beginning to see that Phineas could get away with anything. I couldn’t help envying him that a little, which was perfectly normal. There was no harm in envying even your best friend a little,” (Gene, 19). “He had gotten away with everything. I felt a sudden stab of disappointment,” (Gene, 22). In both cases above, Gene himself states that he is envious of Phineas and is disappointed that Phineas didn’t get into trouble.
Phineas’ charisma not only causes jealousy in Gene, but also puts him into possibly harmful situations. Phineas always shames Gene into doing something Gene doesn’t want to do. On top of that, Phineas, on occasion, puts Gene into harm’s way, with or without knowing it. “Yes, he had practically saved my life. He had also practically lost it for me. I wouldn’t have been on that damn limb except for him. I wouldn’t have turned around, and so lost my balance, if he hadn’t been there,” (Gene, 26). “Then in the everyday, mediocre tone he used when he was proposing something really outrageous, he added, “Let’s go to the beach. The beach was hours away by bicycle, forbidden, and completely out of bounds. Going there risked expulsion, destroyed the studying I was going to do for an important test the next morning, blasted the reasonable amount of order I wanted to maintain in my life, and it also involved the kind of long, labored, bicycle ride I hated,” (Gene, 38). These two examples show that Phineas can talk Gene into doing something he doesn’t want to do, as well as things that can later harm Gene, such as climbing the tree, or get him into trouble, such as going out of grounds.
Phineas may or may not be trying to hurt Gene or get him into trouble, but none the less, it is always a possibility with the schemes Phineas comes up with. Even though Phineas is putting Gene into dangerous situations he is still a better person than Gene. Gene knows that Phineas is a better person than he is. “He was never going to accuse me. It was only a feeling he had, and at this moment he must have been formulating a new commandment in his personal Decalogue: Never accuse a friend of a crime if you only have a feeling he did it,” (Gene, 58).
Gene, of course, being impulsive as he is, would accuse Phineas of something even if he only has a feeling. “He had never been jealous of me for a second. Now I knew that there never was and never could have been any rivalry between us. I was not of the same quality as he,” (Gene, 52). Gene who has stated before that he was jealous of Phineas realizes in the quote above that he isn’t as good a person as Phineas because Phineas was never jealous of Gene, nor did he ever want a rivalry between the two of them, as Gene thought he did. Of course, some people may think that Gene wouldn’t push Phineas out of the tree, as they are best friends.
Well, let me ask this, would someone accuse their best friend of trying to destroy something they were better at? “Finny had deliberately set out to wreck my studies. That explained blitzball, that explained the night meetings of the Super Suicide Society, that explained his insistence that I share all his diversions,” (Gene, 46). Gene does just this in the above quote. Without any real evidence of such, Gene believes that Phineas is trying to destroy his studies, the one thing he is better than Phineas at. One would not go around accusing their best friend of trying to destroy something they were better at.
Now, Phineas may believe they are best friends, “I hope you’re having a pretty good time here. I know I kind of dragged you away at the point of a gun, but after all you can’t come to the shore with just anybody and you can’t come by yourself, and at this teen-age period in life the proper person is your best pal, which is what you are,” (Phineas, 40-41). Yet, Gene says nothing. In fact, he admits he may have been stopped by his subconscious telling him Phineas isn’t his best friend, though he is Phineas’. “I should have told him then that he was my best friend also and rounded off what he had said.
I started to I nearly did. But something held me back. Perhaps I was stopped by that level of feeling, deeper than thought, which contains the truth,” (Gene, 41). I’ll give everyone the fact that one would probably never cause harm to their best friend on purpose, but with the evidence I have brought up, does it seem like Phineas is Gene’s best friend? Not really. Gene himself states that he is envious of Phineas and is disappointed when Phineas gets away with everything. Along with that, Phineas put Gene in danger of falling out of the very tree Phineas does, for Gene wouldn’t have been up there if it wasn’t for Phineas.
Phineas also puts him at risk of being expelled by insisting they go to the beach. Gene, who accuses Phineas of trying to destroy his studies due to jealousy without any real proof, realizes Phineas would never accuse Gene of something based on a feeling, and besides, Gene admits that he realizes Phineas is not jealous of him. Gene also realizes that though he may have thought there to be some rivalry between them, there isn’t for he was not of the same quality of Phineas. With these reasons, it is clearly evident that Gene pushed Phineas out of the tree because of jealousy.